Friday, October 24, 2008

Invest in the Soil...

Our current economic downturn continues to reveal deeper trouble in the global economy; many solutions that will help us ease out of the current recession are being discussed at this weekend's Bioneers by the Bay Conference hosted by the city of New Bedford. I'll be joining a panel on Saturday focusing on green jobs: "Green Careers and Creating Eco-Equity in the Green Economy", 1:30 PM at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford.

I believe that investment in human and natural capital will play an integral role in a transition toward an economy built on real wealth (see recent post "50 Million Farmers Needed"). This future economy will be a contrast to the recent global economy that has led us into the current crisis; one built on consumption, debt, and depletion of our natural resources.

Invest in the soil: on the farm, in the backyard, on rooftop gardens; wherever food is or can be grown.

Remineralize and reenergize depleted soils with nutrients needed for optimum plant growth. Don't limit our fertilizers and amendments to Nitrogen, Phospherous, and Potassium (N,P,K); instead we need to emphasize the importance of Calcium as well as Sufur, Magnesium, "minor nutrients" and "trace elements" to provide the full spectrum of nutrients that soil biology demands.To learn more about efforts to grow and promote nutrient dense foods check out the Real Food Campaign's website.
Refocus on building vibrant soil biology that will: make these nutrients available to the roots of our plants, create and maintain a healthy soil structure, prevent the loss of soil organic matter.

Production of nutritious fruits and vegetables that will nourish our bodies. Growing healthy food is real wealth creation that works with nature to build on the natural capital that we must steward for future generations.

Sounds simple, emphasize and focus on one of our most important resources, our soils, right? But a recent article "Drought Resistance is the Goal..." illustrates how our society focuses on technology (genetic engineering and plant breeding) as a solution to current and future agricultural problems. Personally, I feel this narrow focus on technological solution results from a focus on corporate profits; who will profit from healthy soils? Not agribusiness. Healthy soil will build profit for farmers and gardeners, a stable profit for generations to come.

If you haven't read the recent New York Times Magazine article written by Michael Pollan, "Farmer in Chief", I would encourage you to do so. Pollan once again does an admiral job of emphasizing the importance of sustainable agricultural production ("the original solar power") as part of the solution to our energy crisis and problems related to climate change.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Know Your Vegetables, Vol II - Fall Fertilizers and Compost

This Monday, October 20th, at 6:30 we'll be hosting our second installment of "Know Your Vegetables", a free conversation series focusing on topics related to small scale vegetable production.

We'll be discussing fall fertilizers; now is the time to make sure you boost energy levels in the soil to help with the breakdown of crop residue. Fall applications of rock minerals can allow for the biological activity of the soil to begin working to make these nutrients available to next year's crop. The other topic area on the agenda for Monday evening is compost.

Compost is often heralded for supplying humus to the soil, increasing organic matter that plays a critical role in soil health. It can also be a great way to introduce minerals and biological activity into the garden or cropland. We'll examine different composting methods and reasons to consider amending compost piles with additional nutrients, including biodynamic preps.

Interested in community gardens? Read an article printed in this week's Chronicle "A Green Revolution is Brewing at Local Farms, Urban Lots".

This Saturday, October 18th, join us at the Dartmouth YMCA's Fall Family Festival. We'll have farm activities throughout the afternoon, including: a sheep petting area, drop spindle demonstration, a field tour and nature hike, climbing wall, and farm games. The afternoon will begin with the judging of our 1st Annual Pie Contest ($5 to enter your pie, two categories - youth and adult, prizes include 1 week of tuition to Camp Metacomet in 2009 and a 3 month membership to YMCA Southcoast). I'll be presenting a talk at 2:30 PM titled "Growing Healthy Food" - vegetable gardening basics with a focus on fertility. Admission to the event is $10 per family. {The whole day is a fundraising effort for the Dartmouth YMCA Scholarship Fund}

I have been managing the Dartmouth YMCA's Sharing the Harvest farm project for the 2008 season. This year we harvested more than 15,000 lbs. of fresh produce on the community farm plot at the Y. We are currently seeking Farm Project Coordinator for the 2009 season.

And finally, at 4PM next Thursday October 23, I'll be presenting at a workshop in Fall River sponsored by Healthy City Fall River on soil analysis for gardeners at St. Luke's Church, 315 Warren Street in Fall River.

Hope you can join us at one of the workshops, conversations during the upcoming week...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Green Jobs Now, 50 million new farmers needed

Last weekend I attended a Green Jobs Now Day of Action at the New Wave Cafe in New Bedford. The event was part of a larger nationwide event promoted by Green Jobs Now. Van Jones has recently published a book on the topic, "The Green Collar Economy". He'll be presenting at the upcoming Bioneers by the Bay Conference held the last weekend in October in New Bedford.

Recent economic turmoil makes me think about the importance of an economy based on tangible production of goods and investing in human capacity. Riane Eisler discusses much of this at length in her book "The Real Wealth of Nations" and Thomas Friedman has jumped on board with recent article promoting investments in the green economy and education. Perhaps valuing agriculture goods at parity, National Organization for Raw Materials (NORM) has some interesting points to consider, would be a good start for developing more opportunity for new farmers. Richard Heinberg has called for 50 million new farmers in a peak oil period.

Looking for information about farm apprenticeships for next growing season? Check out a list of links in word.doc file: Farming in 2009.