1938

Foreward to the 1938 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, Soils and Men. I sure wish our current USDA secretary would say something like this.

“The earth is the mother of us all — plants, animals, and men. The phosphorus and calciul of the earth build our skeletons and nervous systems. Everything else our bodies need except air and sun comes from the earth. Nature treats the earth kindly. Man treats her harshly. He overplows the cropland, overgrazes the pastureland, and overcuts the timberland. He destroys millions of acres completely. He pours fertility year after year into the cities, which in turn pour what they do not use down the sewers into the rivers and the ocean. The flood problem insofar as it is man-made is chiefly the result of overplowing, overgrazing, and overcutting of timber.

This terribly destructive process is excusable in a young civilization. It is not excusable in the United States in the year 1938. We know what can be done and we are beginning to do it. As individuals we are beginning to do the necessary things. As a nation, we are beginning to do them. The public is waking up, and just in time. In another 30 years it might have been too late.

The social lesson of soil waste is that no man has the right to destroy soil even if he does own it in fee simple. The soil requires a duty of man which we have been slow to recognize. In this book the effort is made to discover man’s debt and duty to the soil. The scientists examine the soil problem from every possible angle.

This book must be reckoned with by all who would build a firm foundation for the future of the United States. For my part I do not feel that this book is the last word. But it is a start and a mighty good start in helping all those who truely love the soil to fight the good fight.”

-HENRY A. WALLACE, Secretary of Agriculture.

Spring Training

I just got back from a trip to Michigan to visit family, and wham, we are back outside working! This week we transplanted our first set of lettuce and spinach, and we will be planting more as soon as it dries up enough to prepare more beds.

Anaka and I ran the manure bucket brigade

The last part of the week was spent feeding some Scarlet Ohno Turnips, and Wild Garden Kale, with composted chicken manure mixed with terra preta.

It has been wet the past little while, and to get to the field we are currently working in you either need a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle, or a row boat.

too deep for boots, too shallow for boats; we scraped bottom

We also began work on an expanded deer fence for an old and new section of field. Friday was spent with an auger, gravel and shovels, securing the new corner posts.

When this fence is up, our seeds will be certified Deer-Free.

mapping out the new territory, known as "the back field"

Drill, baby, drill

Rally for the Right to Know

Hey Folks,

Our own Hank Keough, Master of the Marys River Grange and recently made famous in the pages of New York Times, will be speaking at the Rally for the Right to Know in Salem, OR tomorrow.

Look for this guy!

This event is to raise awareness about GMO food labeling, and will coincide with a national rally in Washington D.C.  If you want to find a rally in a town near you, check out their website here.

The Salem event is set to go from 12:00- 3:00 pm, and will be located at 900 Court Street NE, the Oregon State Capitol.

Going Rogue

These days at the Wild Garden, we are doing our very first selections on the seedlings we have recently planted.  When planting, we sow more seeds than necessary in each cell of our flats. The

thinning

making the cut

plants then need some space when they come up, so we take that opportunity to remove anything that looks like it should not be there. I also did a different type of selection the other day, separating a variety into its black-seeded and white-seeded types.

separating seeds

don't sneeze

Additionally, we have been observing wildlife. Some hungry squirrels have begun to raid a compost pile in search of delicata squash, bits and pieces of which may now be found in and around nearby trees. One particularly defiant specimen has taken to eating on the front wheel of a subaru:

squirrel

*note: squirrel is cuter than it appears to be

Food as a Strategic Weapon

“America is a powerful and affluent country, but it is also a country in great danger. Depending on how it uses the food it produces, such a large country producing so much food is capable of saving the world  or of throwing the world into chaos…”

-Masanobu Fukuoka, The Road Back to Nature, 1987

Blowing Bubbles

Two weeks ago, I attended the Food Justice Conference in Eugene, Oregon. Fred Kirschenmann gave the opening address on Saturday evening, and Dr. Vandana Shiva wrapped it all up on Monday, speaking about the food desert of industrial agriculture and the dangers of including food in the global casino of financial speculation. This is a theme that appeared repeatedly throughout the conference, with many of the speakers making references to a Harpers article entitled “The Food Bubble” by Frederick Kaufman. This article came out last year, and describes in detail how Goldman Sachs brought food into the futures trading world in 1991, artificially drove up the price of wheat in the course of creating returns for investors, and caused millions of people to go hungry worldwide while silos in the Midwest stood full of over 600 million bushels of unused grain.

In the article, Kaufman asks the CEO of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, which used to keep the price of grain low, if this could happen again; if wheat prices could soar like in 2008. The response is, well, yes. Not only is it possible, it is probable, and as the New York Times reported last week in the article In Price of Farmland, Echoes of Another Boom, “Just a few years ago, farmers marveled as land prices began to rise in response to demand for corn to make ethanol. More recently, soaring prices for wheat, corn, soybeans and other crops have driven the increase”.  The bubble machine is hard at work, cranking out the next big one.

Goldman Sachs

At the end, Kaufman asks Minneapolis Grain Exchange executives if it was not the responsibility of the grain exchange to “ensure a stable valuation of our daily bread”, and is informed that, “I view what we’re working with as Widgets…I think being an employee at an exchange is different from adding value to the food system”.   This is food reduced to mathematical equations, separated from the story of its production and consumption, separated from its real value as human nourishment, separated even from the physical food itself, and used as a speculative tool to leverage money into pockets.

As Dr. Shiva said in her closing address in Eugene, “If you get your ethics right, your economics will flow out naturally”; here we have an absence of ethics, and an economy spiraling unnaturally out of control.

March Onwards

floating the row cover

floating row covers really do float.

cutting vents

Cutting greenhouse plastic around the frames for the air vents.

vac-away

The best use we could come up with for these vac-away seed cleaners: a work bench

Around the farm this week: lots of new plantings, and our first lettuces are just beginning to want to go in the ground.

We also got some vents installed in the greenhouse, which will help give the summer dwellers a breath of fresh air.

Before you know it, we will be back out in the fields, taking care of the varieties that overwintered, and preparing the way for the new crops. Our hoes are freshly sharpened, handles oiled, and our boots recently told me that they are excited to be back in the dirt.

96% is an A+

In a current poll on the MSNBC website, 96% of the 40,000 respondents said that they support mandatory labeling of GMO foods, choosing the option “Yes. It’s an ethical issue — consumers should be informed so they can make a choice.”

3.2% say they do not support labeling, because “The U.S. government says they are safe and that’s good enough for me.”

0.8% of people say “Not sure. It all tastes the same to me.”

Anaka oiling a hoe handle, moments before getting online and voting on the labeling issue.

If you want to throw in your own vote, visit the poll here.

Cutting up the Beets

Last Friday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals came back with a decision in the Roundup Ready Sugar Beet case. Their deliberations hinged on whether or not Judge White was correct in ruling that the sugar beet stecklings (young plants) be destroyed last December.  Here is what the court had to say:

“Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that the permitted steckling plants present a possibility, much less a likelihood, of genetic contamination or other irreparable harm. The undisputed evidence indicates that the stecklings pose a negligible risk of genetic contamination, as the juvenile plants are biologically incapable of flowering or cross-pollinating before February 28, 2011, when the permits expire.”

In other words, the appeals court found that the stecklings should not be destroyed because they do not flower and thus cannot cross with other crops. Additionally, the court wrote that “The alleged irreparable harms are little more than an expression that “life finds a way.” Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park 159 (Ballantine 1990). However, an invocation to chaos theory is not sufficient to justify a preliminary injunction.” Applying this story of Jurassic Park to the beet case is surprisingly appropriate:

Do Dino eggs produce Dinosaurs?

Dinosaur DNA was harvested from some hardened amber, and the opportunity to bring dinosaurs back to life was made possible. The government approved the development of dinosaur eggs, because, well, eggs are just eggs and they do not in and of themselves make a dinosaur. Concerned citizens sued, citing possible negative aspects of dinosaurs. The courts then said that the eggs did not present any harm, but that the people were welcome to seek an injunction once the eggs hatched.  And in the story, of course, no dinosaurs actually hatched from the eggs, and everything was fine, right?

Read the full 21 page court decision here, if you wish.