Local Agriculture

The good earth: Hard Times

by Dan Clost

Gentle Reader, we’re heading into a bleaker winter than we might have hoped. World markets are fluctuating and each expert gives us a different reason. We heard that those incredibly high gas prices were very good for us, that the loonie being relatively stronger than the American dollar was bad and that we Canadians are buffered from the meltdown. That was last week. This week we are told that the low gas prices are bad for us, a stronger American dollar is bad and the Big 3 auto manufacturers are standing in line for bailouts.

Closer to home, our local economy has taken a big hit with the Quaker announcement and we don’t seem to have any good news on the horizon. Bottom line, hard times is a-comin’ iffen they’s not already here, so batten down the hatches.

How does this segue into a gardening column? Very nicely; in fact, it sashays us right into the middle of the veggie patch that we’ll be planting next year. Before we get to that, let’s review our options for acquiring food. The preferred source is our own garden. But, that’s a big garden. It needs space, time and commitment. Today’s city dwellings don’t always lend themselves to agricultural pursuits nor do the lifestyle requirements of today’s city dwellers. That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t grow as much as we can. The second preferred choice is from a local organic farm. (We’ll be looking at a group of producers in this area in upcoming columns.) The third choice is local conventional farmers who offer their produce to us, usually through a farmers’ market. The fourth choice is the local food store; look for those who purchase locally. (And to forestall any worries, I have absolutely nothing against the food store chains. It’s sort of like going into any retail outlet where you are offered a choice between a Canadian made product and one manufactured elsewhere.) The goal is to search out some local resources, get a handle on what a vegetable garden really is, how to select and grow your plants, making sure they will be harvestable before winter, when and how to harvest; and how to store your harvest. Finally, I would like to encourage Gentle Reader to start researching now.

Folks, if you have questions or know of local sources for produce, please let me know. The questions will help guide my writing so the information will be as helpful as possible. Letting us know of resources, will help both us and the local producer as well as reduce our travelling miles. I confess that there are other reasons connected with my urgings. I firmly believe that we, as a society, are losing touch with our agricultural heritage. More than that, we are losing touch with what food is.

Grow some food and see what the challenges are. Then take that challenge and increase it ten thousand fold. Welcome to the world of the farmer. By the way, if our little potato plant doesn’t come through, we’ll just go down to the grocery store and pick up a ten-pound bag for a couple of loonies. If Johnny Farmer’s potatoes don’t grow, he doesn’t eat. In the long run, neither will we. We are no longer connected with the soil that sustains and as a result, we treat this resource almost cavalierly. Think I’m off the mark? Drive in a big circle around Trenton or any other city. Here’s what you will see: prime agricultural lands disappearing under asphalt, cleansing wetlands being filled in, heck even floodplains with their delicate eco-systems have houses on them. Okay, I’ll put away the soap box for now and get back to the gardening. And you too! Vegetable gardening that is.