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Dear Methow Gardeners,
By Jane Gilbertsen 

March 10, 2011

St. FrancisSt Francis allegedly said, "I would tend my garden" when asked what he would do if he knew the world was about to end. I think he meant to keep on keeping on: do what is right and good just where you are in the face of bad news or big news.

Why am I bringing this up now? Well, along with the catalogs of seeds and plants piling up in my living room is a pile of news stories about the growing world wide food crisis. What is the ethical response? I don't know, but here are some more of my thoughts for your contemplation.

Opinions are divided about the main driver(s) of the skyrocketing food prices. This is the general list -
  1. Disruptive climate events, mainly the record heat and drought, cutting supply. Usual big fight as to why of course.

  2. Growing demand, not just from the ever increasing billions of people that just want to eat something, but from the rising global middle class that now wants the automobile gas and meat/protein the first world has long enjoyed.

  3. The food speculators. Big money is chasing commodities and betting big on desperate hungry people being good for paying ever more to survive. If investor types are speculating on food you gotta suspect that something big is happening out there.

  4. To a lesser extent the appearance of serious unstoppable plant disease. For example, bananas in Australia, China and Philippines are pretty much all dying of a soil-born fungus. The bananas are the commercial Cavandish variety and all are susceptible. Americans eat Latin American Cavandish so we are oblivious to the problem, but it will come. Bananas are an optional food for America but crucial in Africa and an essential food and product for great numbers of the poor. Think Irish potato famine. Manioc, also known as cassava, a crop not appetizing to Americans except as the humble tapioca, is under attack by the brown streak disease, a blight. Likewise, it is an essential food for great numbers of the poor. It provides lots of essential nutrients, not just carbohydrates and can be left in the ground until needed. No fossil fuel necessary for food storage.

  5. And just now, the big jump in the price of oil. Oil moves farming equipment on the industrial farms and family operations alike. Oil makes the nitrogen fertilizer and transports food for processing and sale. Almost nowhere can people eat well locally. (Almost nowhere does water for crops fall reliably out of the sky. Civilization is built on irrigation. Always was and always will be.)
What else happens when people don't have food they can afford? Before dying, desperate people get mad. Really mad. Paul Krugman had this to say in the New York Times on February 6, 2011: "The consequences of this food crisis go far beyond economics. After all, the big question about uprisings against corrupt and oppressive regimes in the Middle East isn't so much why they're happening as why they're happening now. And there's little question that sky-high prices have been an iimportant trigger for popular rage."

Although we are literally fat cats in the food supply department, we sure saw what happened in this community with a little change in our electric rate structure. Talk about popular rage. We experienced a sample of this here at home. Imagine if it was our essential food supply?
"Tending the garden" isn't denying the realities of the world's suffering. It is a way to move forward by being the change you want to
see. For me, it is honoring the soil and soul with mindfullness.

Corny I know, but at the most fundamental, it all starts there, behind the deer fence.

Thanks for reading,
Jane G.

PS: Next week I will report in on what good stuff is available locally - seeds and plants. In the meantime, go to the BITE of METHOW at the Barn this Saturday, March 12. Bid on my beautiful eggs! The money goes to the Kiwanis charities. Those guys work hard to support our community.