One other booth was selling produce last week, at some pretty strange prices: a tiny bunch of miniature radishes for $3.00; no thanks. I love radishes, but not that much. We'll just wait.
Maybe it's time for me to struggle out to the weed patch and plant a few radish seeds. Radishes make a quick crop; one that's especially fun for kids, since they can see results so quickly.
True story I once heard; little kid planting in the garden for the first time, put some radish seeds carefully into the ground. A couple of days later, after the boy was in bed, his grandfather transplanted some full grown radishes into the row. In the morning, the kid's eyes got as big as saucers! Wow, grandpa, they already grew!
It takes a little longer than that for us adults, but radishes are still quick and easy.
Our local food buying coop missed out on the lettuce we had ordered: the word was "aphids". Osage Gardens, the supplier of the wonderful butter lettuce we've been enjoying, had an aphid infestation that wiped out all of one crop. Since they're organic, they can't bring in the big guns and kill every bug in sight. We hear the next crop is coming on, and hope to get our hands on it in a few weeks. We have been enjoying the Colorado spinach.
As the price of petroleum goes up and up, the price of everything we buy goes up. The more transportation cost embedded in the production of a food item, the higher the price must go. There is no alternative, except to foster local producers, and to grow our own. How can we foster local producers?
- Buy a membership in a local CSA, but buy it early; most are sold out by April
- Dig up your grass and plant food; the "100-foot diet". Hopefully you haven't been dousing the grass with weed-n-feed and Roundup.
- Encourage more local produce farmers..... but how?
Some of the problems local produce farmers face, both the hothouse and the field farmers: cold winters, hail, tornadoes, cost of irrigation water, cost of diesel to run the pumps to irrigate and to run the tractors, and most of all, unbelievably high costs for farmland near cities and towns. We're talking $20,000 to $40,000 an acre for some of this land. The only crop that can profitably be grown on land that expensive is shopping malls and houses.
Aside: Tell me, do we really NEED more retail space near Loveland and Fort Collins? Where is the money coming from to buy goods in all those stores? Where are the new good-paying jobs to support all that spending?
Back to the problems of local farmers--The list goes on: diseases caused by monocropping spreading into their fields. USDA subsidies for corn, wheat, and soy, most of which go to large corporations, but no help for produce farmers. Infection of non-GMO crops by pollen from neighboring GMO fields, and subsequent lawsuits from GMO producers for so-called "theft" of genetic material the farmer didn't want in the first place.
More: Pollinator decline, especially honeybees, due to diseases and pests of many kinds, and management which is often focused far more on profit than on honeybee health. (To read more about the problems of the honeybees, and some solutions, see Gunther Hauk's website: Spikenard Farm.)
And More: Water is being sold out from under farmland across the West to support municipal growth. Once the water is gone, the farmland reverts to prairie permanently, if not desert. So, tell me, do we need more suburban sprawl around here, or do we need food?
The campaign--one might almost call it a crusade--begun in the 1950s by Sec. of Agriculture Earl Butz to dismantle the small family farms in favor of mega-agri-bizness is in its final stages, and we are all the poorer for it (well, almost all; a few in this country have profited enormously from this change). What can we do to turn this around? How can we start, as communities, as individuals, to value local farming and farmers, and protect them. How can we encourage young people who desperately want to farm, but are unable to afford the "development" cost of land? How can we change our community's priorities?
I don't have the answers. These are not rhetorical questions, they are real questions, and the answers we find as individuals and as communities will determine what kind of food we have for our families now and in the future.