Sunday, April 15, 2012

Farmers wanted: we all need each other

Good morning everyone,

I was recently browsing the wonderful City Farmer site, and ran across an article by a young urban agriculture entrepreneur [Wanted:Farmers by Dan Allen ].

He seemed to be concerned that people who are just learning to garden and grow food at their homes do not know enough about soil, the plants they grow, and growing conditions to grow food efficiently and abundantly and to develop the health of their soil.

I had my first garden over 40 years ago. I have 6 shelves of garden books. Every year I make mistakes. Every year I do some things well. Every year I learn something. Every year I enjoy what I am doing. Every year I take care of my vegetable garden, myself, my family, and the soil. I also spend some of my volunteer time advocating for urban agriculture, and teaching about gardening. I keep going because I know I'm part of a world-wide web of people who care and are trying to develop healthy, food secure communities.

Urban food gardeners are spending hours of volunteer time slogging through the hoops of city bureaucracies to change regulations that restrict or forbid basics like community gardens or home gardens in sunny front yards, or that restrict compost piles to two units of a base size approximately 1 square yard. We talk to city planners and community organizations that have never heard of the varied types of urban agriculture that happen in our country and in others, for profit and not for profit. (check out In Canada and the United States entrepreneurial (paying) urban agriculture projects are only just starting. They are subject to all sorts of regulations at various levels of government, and the change in mind-set - from legitimate food production being able to happen only outside cities, to its possibility within our cities - is only just beginning.

Urban agriculture proponents try to let individuals, communities, organizations and local governments know that food production is not just a satisfying personal endeavor. It is a prudent aspect of food security, and is ideally carried out through an wholistic view of the pleasure and practicality of gardening within a system that continually brings healthy materials back into the soil web for its increased health. This system encompasses efficiency, continual learning and innovation.

Mr. Allen commented: "Farmers are stewards of the soil, experts at maximizing the productive potential of a plot of land, and keen appreciators of effective infrastructure investments." I believe he wanted to express appreciation for full-time, paid farmers who are producing food; and to acknowledge that they learn all the time, think, and care about producing good food. This is good.

You readers won't be surprised that my cynical self took over when I read the full paragraph. She substituted the pitch used by major agrochemical/seed producers: "You are the expert. You need our product to maximize and make profit. You are the best and only person with expertise to do the job right. You need our products to ensure that you do the job right. Leave it to us. Don't you worry your pretty little head about his little lady ..." ooops! I got carried away there!

Corporate concentration took knowledge about food away from people ... made us less able. It's resulted in commodification of seeds, oversize farms, massive fossil fuel use, degradation of soil, and toxins in air, water and soil.

I, and hundreds of thousands of people in North America want to be able again. We want the satisfaction of growing and eating healthy food. Ultimately we are working toward better health and food security. We really do try to understand the big picture. The beginning gardener - tender as any newly emerged plant - does need to know that gardening means labour and long-term. We need to find ways to have that be within a context of encouragement to garden, to have successes and make mistakes, to learn, and to grow something that delights.

We need each other.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Wanted: Farmers. by Dan Allen, April 13/12 via picked up from Seedstock

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