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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/24/19

Our Veggie Gardens Won't Feed us in a Real Crisis

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Republished from http://macskamoksha.com/

A haul from the Author's urban farming operation in Portland
A haul from the Author's urban farming operation in Portland
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Massive flooding and heavier than normal precipitation across the US Midwest this year delayed or entirely prevented the planting of many crops. The situation was sufficiently widespread that it was visible from space. The trouble isn't over yet: Hotter-than-normal temperatures predicted to follow could adversely affect corn pollination. Projections of lower yields have already stimulated higher prices in UN grain indexes and US ethanol. Additionally, the USDA is expecting harvests to be of inferior quality. Furthermore, the effects of this year could bleed into 2020; late planting leads to late harvesting which delays fall tilling, potentially until next spring, when who knows what Mother Nature will deliver.

Accuweather's characterization of this as a "one-of-a-kind growing season" is literally true only in terms of its exact circumstances (given increasingly chaotic events) but not in its intensity (which will surely be exceeded). Prudence would dictate that we heed this year's events as a warning and get serious about making preparations for worse years. Literal cycles of "feast or famine" have marked agriculture since its birth and sooner or later we will experience significant shortages here in the US, if not from the weather, than from war or lack of resources.

The Midwest floods and their possible repercussions for the food supply got some attention in the news (though not enough). One of the most common suggestions I saw on social media was: "Plant a garden!"

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If only it were that simple.

I used to be a small-scale organic farmer so take it from me: totally feeding yourself from your own efforts is very, very challenging. Though some friends and I tried over multiple seasons, we never succeeded, or even came anywhere close.

First of all, consider what you eat. Yes, you. What do you eat at home? At work? When you go out? Okay, what percentage of that can be raised in the bioregion where you live? If you have trouble answering this question, don't feel bad. I would guess that the proportion of the US population with practical agricultural knowledge is lower than in any other society in history.

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Looking at the subset of your current diet that can be grown in your area, is it enough to live off of? Is it well-balanced and does it provide enough calories? If not, what will you add to fill it out? This is purely an exercise of course, but there's the rough draft of the menu you're going to survive on. How will that work? I mean logistically?

Let's take carrots. They're popular, they're nutritious, and they can be grown all over the US without too much trouble. What's a year's worth of carrots look like? How many ten-foot rows would it take to produce that many? When are they best seeded? How much space, water and amendments do they require? What tools do you need? Are there diseases or insects to worry about and what's the best way of dealing with them? When do you pick them? How long will the harvest keep?

Now go through all those questions for everything else on your list.

Then add it up: all the space, hours, and equipment.

Does it look daunting? If it doesn't, you left something out.

Without going through all of the above, here's what you're probably not thinking of right now: The typical US American diet is only 10-20% fruits and veggies"like you might grow in your backyard"and the vast majority is made up of grains and proteins in one form or another.

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What vegetable does nearly everyone grow in their home garden? Tomatoes. How do they eat them? Often enough, on a sandwich or in pasta. That's wheat or rice or some other grains. How many people have ever planted rice or wheat in their back yards?

Meat is also grains because that's what's fed to animals. This includes the majority of grass-fed cows, who are "finished" (fattened up) on grains on a feedlot prior to slaughter. So if you want meat in your home-grown diet, you'll need to plant for those mouths too. You might end up concluding that you don't need as much as you thought you did. (BTW, historic paleolithic diets were supplemented by hunting meat but were dependent on gathering roots, seeds, berries, etc.)

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Kollibri terre Sonnenblume is a writer, photographer, tree hugger, animal lover, and dissident. Kollibri's work can be found at http://www.macskamoksha.com."



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3 people are discussing this page, with 4 comments


Daniel Geery

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I agree completely although I think you understate the case quite severely. Temperatures will continue to rise as this so-called New Normal goes into exponential mode. The planet is getting warmer and warmer with no end in sight, more and more CO2, methane bursts already started, ozone depletion, insect apocalypse, and infinitely more.

I go back to what Guy McPherson has been saying for a decade or more: habitat, habitat, habitat. At least our early ancestors had that going for them, with plants actually growing and animals feeding on them. Without habitat, there is no conceivable way that crops are going to grow.

I too tried to live off the land and met with similar stories to yours. You can still find my book, Solar Greenhouses Underground, at insane prices online. I don't recommend it and I'll say clearly that it just ain't going to work. Look at Biosphere 2 if you need a further example.

99.9% or more of all species on earth have gone extinct. We are not far behind and I can see no conceivable way around it, though it's not for lack of actively looking for quite some time.

Hopefully, everything I've said is 100% wrong. But there's little more I can add to it.

I guess I can add one more thing. I hope that we are all motivated to act more humanely than we have ever before, as we should have been all along.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jul 24, 2019 at 8:26:07 PM

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CATT WHITE

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The main problem with the type of food growing done now, is mono-culture. When you incorporate companion planting and permaculture everything changes. Most people have no idea what they are doing when they plant gardens. Ignorance leads to failure. Deciding what vegetation you plan to grow and make sure you have a variety of each as well as making sure you have what will grow in your climate. After the first year, allow some of the plants to go to seed and collect those seeds and replace the previous seeds you used for your past plantings. These seeds from the vegetables you grew will now be your "natives" not just to your area, but to your particular property. They will be stronger and produce better in the following years because of this.

Submitted on Thursday, Jul 25, 2019 at 5:06:13 PM

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CATT WHITE

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The main problem with the type of food growing done now, is mono-culture. When you incorporate companion planting and permaculture everything changes. Most people have no idea what they are doing when they plant gardens. Ignorance leads to failure. Deciding what vegetation you plan to grow and make sure you have a variety of each as well as making sure you have what will grow in your climate. After the first year, allow some of the plants to go to seed and collect those seeds and replace the previous seeds you used for your past plantings. These seeds from the vegetables you grew will now be your "natives" not just to your area, but to your particular property. They will be stronger and produce better in the following years because of this.

Submitted on Thursday, Jul 25, 2019 at 5:06:35 PM

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Chuck Nafziger

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If we continue with industrial agriculture, we degrade the Earth's ability to produce food: we kill the living soil, the bugs and everything that feeds on them. Just look at the collapse in insect populations. Without insects, the whole system goes down. If we keep up with industrial agriculture, we will be without insects soon.

Industrial food and the insane Western diet is the cause of all our chronic diseases. We need the gardens Katt White is talking about. They are being planted and harvested around me in the Northwest. I will get 50-70% of my week's food from my garden, my weed beds, and the very local Bow Farmer's Market. I do buy organic bulk grains from the local co-op. My diet has never been more local nor has it ever been better for flavor and nutrition.

Increasingly sustainable organic farming employs more people, produces MORE food per acre than industrial farming, keeps money in the 'hood, and produces real food.

Whether we are heading into climate collapse or heaven on earth, local, permaculture, organic gardening gives us better food and more of it.

Get past the "we need industrial farming, GMOs, etc. to feed the starving billions." It is an insidious mind worm implanted by industrial ag.


Submitted on Thursday, Jul 25, 2019 at 5:58:03 PM

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