Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Growing food

“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” ~Franklin Roosevelt

Do you like this flower staring at the sun? It belongs to one of our potato plants. I grow them in containers.
 Did you know that a conventional potato from the store may contain 35 pesticides? A conventional tomato may contain about 40 pesticides. Washing it does not make much of a difference.

 Growing food is an endeavor of love, but industrial agriculture has turned it into an act of destruction. Somebody may have made you believe that industrial agriculture feeds the world. This  is a fallacy.
 One billion people  are hungry as I write this post. By destroying the foundation of food production industrial agriculture worsens hunger and poverty.

 Only 30% of the food that people eat comes from large-scale industrial farms. The other 70% comes from small-scale farmers working on small plots of land.  In addition to being more expensive due to the cost of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers, industrial agriculture is responsible for 75% of the ecological damage being done to the planet.  It pollutes more water and fails to conserve it.  Vandana Shiva’s book “Who feeds theWorld?” explains that these figures are routinely hidden, ignored and denied.

   We need an urgent plan to transition this system into one that is sustainable and fair to everybody. As I write this, Republicans are defunding the Research Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Iowa.
  If you genuinely care about animals don’t forget to educate yourself on the horrendous abuse that industrial farming inflicts upon domesticated animals. Here's an article on this important issue.

  The promise of GMOs to use less chemicals and  water turned out to be false. Research has shown that GMOs  are responsible for the use of more pesticides and herbicides, the emergence of resistant weeds and pests, and, as a consequence of this, they continue to destroy ecosystems and create new problems.

  Sustainable agriculture is based on ecological principles. It creates jobs, strengthens communities, and treats animals with respect and kindness. It minimizes its impact on the environment and strives to preserve the health of ecosystems through the enrichment of the soil with organic matter, integrated pest management, diversity of cultures and rotation of crops.

   Enriching the soil should be a priority.  In order to produce nutritious food we need healthy soils.  The soil needs to be enriched with organic matter. Healthy soil teems with life, but industrial agriculture treats the soil as an empty inert container, loading it with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals destroy soil fertility by killing  organisms in it. The excess of nitrates it injects into the soil end up polluting the water. The chemicals create dead zones in lakes, rivers and oceans, where no life can thrive.

 Healthy soil produces healthy plants by making them more resilient and resistant to pests and diseases.
  Good quality soil also allows to conserve water, but  industrial agriculture ignores this fact, so it requires intense irrigation systems to function. Water is a precious resource and the only ones that benefit from wasting and polluting water are the corporations that  get paid to try to purify it. This leads to more inequality and injustice because drinking water becomes more expensive. High concentrations of nitrates in drinking water increase the risk of cancer.

 We all know that climate change is not a hoax.  A healthy soil is better able to endure climate adverse conditions due to its efficiency in regulating water and its capacity to hold onto moisture, which is another reason to nurture the soil instead of destroying it.

 Alber Einstein must have been ahead of his times when he said, “When the last bee disappears, humans will disappear.” Today 75% of bee populations in some regions have been killed over the last three decades because of toxic pesticides and monocultures. Climate change is also contributing to the decline of pollinators.  

Losing bees is not only about losing honey. More than 140 fruits and vegetables depend on hardworking honeybees for pollination. We’ll lose small family farms and local businesses. We will lose an estimated $15 billion dollars in agricultural revenue.

 Neonicotinoids play an important role in the decline of bees. Avoid using these chemicals altogether. Make sure you plant untreated seeds to grow  the flowers whose nectar bees need to feed on, such as Aster, Black-Eyed Susan, Blazing Star, Calstrop, Currant, Huckleberry, Purple Coneflower, Woodland Sage, Scorpion Weed and many others.  Let’s all be part of the solution instead of the problem. Check the ones that are native in your area and grow them.

 Let’s remember that many scientists have been persecuted and threatened for exposing their research on GMOs, pesticides and herbicides. Examples of scientists who have been in these situations include Arpad Pusztai of the United Kingdom, Gilles-Eric Seralini of France, Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley, Vicki Vance of the University of South Carolina, and many others.

 Diversity of cultures is also necessary to create an environment that produces food in sustainable ways, but industrial agriculture relies on monocultures. In doing so, it erodes the soil and contributes  to the decline of pollinators. Industrial agriculture claims to have a “high yield per acre”, but high yield does not mean high nutrition per acre. Their soil is deprived of nutrients , so they produce tasteless food that lacks nutrition.
   Vandana Shiva explained it well: "Life evolves through cooperation and self-organization. Fifty trillion cells cooperate to create the human body. Millions of species cooperate to shape ecosystems and the planet. Plants cooperate with each other. Take, for example, the mixed farming system of corn, beans and squash. Nitrogen- fixing beans provide free nitrogen to cereals, and the stalks of cereals provide support for the bean stalks to climb. The squash provides cover to the soil, preventing soil erosion, water evaporation and the emergence of weeds. Together, these crops provide nutrition for soil, animals and human beings."

 If you are in the business of pesticides and herbicides, consider switching to another business: the business of massive composting. Garbage is nutrition. You can invest in a business that turns garbage into compost. By making compost you can help to feed the soil, and by nourishing the soil you foster the production of healthy food and help to maintain the integrity of the ecosystems. This is beneficial for the future of your children.
 A true patriot should be expected to nurture the soil, not to kill the organisms that live in it. Earthworms are the best fertilizers. Start composting now. Instead of sending trash to landfills, where it pollutes the air and soil and increases the temperature of the planet through the production of methane, you can turn it into a valuable resource that will be treasured by farmers and gardeners and by anybody who is interested in the art of growing food and flowers.

 Growing food should  be an act of compassion and empathy, not of destruction… do you think those workers like to spray your fruit and vegetables with chemicals? Many of them are immigrants who work under the threats of those who exploit them.  These workers are coerced into spraying chemicals that harm their own health.
Ask yourself: where is the chicken coming from? How was she treated? Let’s be mindful of what this means.
 Poisoning the soil, water and air does not feed the world. It contributes to food insecurity, social injustice, inequality and wars. Worsening climate change and the effects of it is an act of terrorism . Let’s acknowledge this simple truth instead of hiding it behind the veil of propaganda. Pesticides and herbicides may be beneficial to the fossil fuel industry, but not to the health of humanity and the environment.
 Even the fossil fuel industry will eventually suffer, because we all live in the same planet. (They just don’t have the foresight to acknowledge the consequences of their current actions).

  Perhaps you are considering to support a CSA (community supported agriculture), or you may want to volunteer for one of the community gardens in your area ; you may want to grow some of your food. You can do so in containers if you don’t have a garden.

Go ahead: write a blog post on this subject. I challenge every reader of this blog to read about the food they eat and to write about what they do to reduce their carbon footprint and on how to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.  
Small changes can be the beginning of bigger changes. They can be the starting point of a different kind of mindset and attitude, one that is more devoted  to being healthier , more considerate and caring.
Spread the word. Inspire others. Share ideas.
 If you educate yourself on this important subject you will discover that there is a lot that you can do to become part of the solution.
 Remember that educating others is also part of our  mission.
Did I awaken your interest?
I found some links for you.
 Growing food takes time, knowledge and observation.  When we do so we are more attuned to nature, to the rhythms and patterns. We become deeply connected to  the creatures and plants that surround us. We become aware of how they interact with one another, and we learn something everyday.
Look at this leather jacket. Every time I get the soil ready to sow seeds I find a few   of them (they are pests to the vegetable plants), so I put them on one of the bird-feeders.  Chickadees and Cardinals devour them. I can assure you that birds turn up to feast on them  in less than five minutes.

As we restore our union with Mother Nature, we clear our minds, open our hearts,  get more creative and feel happier.
It’s time to return to the soil; I have a lot of work to do.

“Let us all return to the soil
That lays the corners of its garments
And awaits for us.
Life rears itself from her breast,
Flowers bloom from her smiles,
Her call is the sweetest music.
Her lap stretches from one corner to the other,
She controls the strings of life.
Her warbling waters bring
The murmur of life from all eternity.”

Rabindranath Tagore