bulletin board
events calendar
business directory

best friend
news briefs


Inside the Deer Fence - April 16, 2010
By Tess Hoke

A Case For Growing Food –

As humans go, we tend not to know we’re in danger until after we see the glint of yellow in the beast’s eye. Perhaps once an evolutionary trait that kept our species in balance, it now threatens not only our selves but also every other biological community on the planet. If we hope to see a recognizable future for our children, then we must act as though the solutions to challenges that we face, including climate change, poverty and environmental destruction, are in our own hands. With over seven billion sets of those hands now on this planet, it is urgent that we use them to solve these issues today.  Our ability to collectively affect our survival or demise has never been so possible or so critical.

If you’ve ever wondered what you could do to make a difference in any of this, then here’s an answer. Grow clean food.  It turns out that growing food is an act that changes the way we live on this planet, bypassing our toxic industrial food system and recreating the place we go for our food. Garden by garden it picks up broken threads from the web of life and weaves them back together again.  It makes more clean food available to family, friends and neighbors and brings to their plates the highest quality nutrient dense food available anywhere.  If we’re going to successfully wade through this toxic environmental soup then we need to stay healthy to do it. Regardless of the reasons you find for joining the food revolution, here’s a few tips for magnifying your success.

The first thing to consider is your immediate growing environment. What are the attributes of your site? Do you have access to a backyard, do you dwell in an urban setting or are you lucky enough to live on a larger tract of land? Regardless of the answer, you can grow a noticeable amount of your own food by using your spaces to their best advantage. If you have no land, don’t let that stop you. Food crops can be grown successfully in a myriad of containers, from recycled to tailor-made.

To grow most vegetable crops, your garden space will require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. As a rule of thumb, the more sun you give your plants the more food they will give you! From a larger perspective, at your fingertips is the one essential element necessary to make food - the sun. It is available to every human on earth and costs nothing.  Through the process of photosynthesis the sun turns your plants into little food factories that work to bring you clean and delicious produce higher in freshness and nutritional value than any you can find at a conventional market.
After deciding where to locate your growing spaces, think about the soil.  The word soil is actually a term used to describe a living web made up of microscopic organisms living symbiotically with each other. In a single handful of this matter, billions of organisms can exist, each involved in a multitude of reactions and events. Organic matter is consumed in a party frenzy and what is left in the aftermath becomes the perfect source of nutrition for plants. This is very important to understand. It is the quality of life of this living, breathing mass that will determine the health of your plants and ultimately you!

Most of the food available at your conventional market has been grown in a way that bypasses this natural system. Man-made chemicals instead of organic compounds are added directly to the soil where they are consumed by plants in lieu of their natural cuisine. The results may look the same, perfectly formed and edible items for the table, but this method takes its toll on the entire biological system.  A chain reaction that begins with the death of soil microbes and ends with suicidal cellular activity throughout the food chain now threatens the entire web of life of this planet. We are part of this living web and our role in it is just as symbiotic as the microbes - what affects them affects us.  This is why growing food in a natural and sustainable way is such a powerful, life-affirming act and why our immediate participation in it is so important.  We must begin to care for the very ground that feeds us.

To get the most from your garden, plan to feed the soil before planting each new crop and make sure you feed it enough. Usually a good two inches of a well-composted high nitrogen fertilizer worked into the space will ensure a good result.  The manure waste of animals is the plant food of choice but soil will digest almost anything as long as it is organic in nature – lawn and garden clippings, kitchen scraps, aquarium water, even dead pets. Basically, if it was once alive the soil will eat it. Through good planning and some trial and error learning, a well-fed garden can produce plenty of fresh produce throughout the season and even provide much of your food year round. 

Finally, it is while we plant the seeds and water the soil that something amazing happens. As we tend the seedlings and anticipate the harvest our biology responds in a manner beyond words.  It may be that this activity twangs a cord wrapped around our DNA and no matter what language we speak or where we reside, the act of growing food brings us together in our common goal towards a sustainable tomorrow.

Tess Hoke owns and operates Local 98856, a center for sustainable living in the Methow Valley, where she grows food and demonstrates the art of backyard gardening.

Friday, Apr 23, 2010.