Aug 012011

A wheelbarrow load of garlic and onions

Consider the fact that if we only had to eat a meal say every fourth day how different our culture and our civilization would be. Hard to even imagine what that would be like. In fact, not worth the time to try except to point out how ubiquitous is food. Food dominates our thoughts, our work day and our social lives. It’s a big effort to eat three times which involves collecting and preparing meals.

We just finished with the third annual Edible Garden Tour which has the dual purpose of raising some money for the Beach School Foundation. The secondary purpose, and more important, is to encourage people to start gardens and begin to raise some of their own food.

There are many considerations in preparing for an uncertain economic future. Certainly one of the most important is insuring that one has food. It is uncertain that the long supply chain that provides for Safeway, Costco, Trader Joe and even the Community Food Store will continue uninterrupted and it’s common knowledge that if the trucks quit running and the trains slow down that store shelves would be empty in a week. Thus, it’s imperative, particularly for those living on an island, to have food on hand. Lots of food. In the long term it makes sense for everyone to learn how to grow some of their own food.

One can forage, of course, and we are fortunate to have many native plants that are edible. There’s a young woman named Felisa Rogers writing for who offers up articles like, “How to deep fry dandelions,” “The tasty flower in my back yard,” and “Can you live without cooking oil?” Felisa and her husband both lost their jobs and moved to isolated Deadwood, Oregon where they working on getting by with less. As one might expect there are blogs on the subject of foraging like this one by a Seattleite who covers foraging for plants and animals. Clearly, if hard times were to strike we live in a land of plenty with lots of sea life and people who know how to get it. This sea life (seaweed, crab shells, fish carcasses) could also be used as fertilizer to revitalize our gardens.

To complement foraging we can all raise some food in our own space or in a community garden or in borrowed or shared space.

The Edible Garden Tour illustrates that one can take a lot of food out of a small plot. Two or three raised beds will provide a surprising amount of food. With a larger garden, one can extend the eating season. Add a greenhouse and extend it even more.

As I’ve become more involved in gardening I’ve learned that there are many schools of thought on how to garden. There is the chemical approach which involves dosing the dirt with NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium), the organic approach which suggests that continuous additions of compost will do the trick, there is the Biodynamics of Rudolf Steiner which applies homeopathic solutions of herbs and treated compost, no til gardening of Masanobu Fukuoka, Korean Natural farming, permaculture, the nutrient dense method of Michael Astera which works to balance minerals in the soil. There are huge disagreements among gardeners as to what method is the most successful and which grows the most nutritious food. There are regional problems of climate and soil types that face gardeners in different parts of the country and different countries of the world. Clearly, there can be a huge learning curve.

But one can start gardening with a mason jar and some sprouting seeds and make salad greens inside all winter long. From there you can move to some big pots on the deck. Graduate to square foot garden in a raised bed or clear a small piece of dirt and plant some seeds. There is plenty of time to learn all the arcane stuff about gardening. In the meantime you can be enjoying a salad from your own yard.


  One Response to “Food”

  1. I agree with you, Randy! When people start to go to the effort to grow their own food (or even if they are buying it from local farmers), I’m also working on learning (and encouraging others) to use ALL the plant, as much as possible. There was recently a good article about this in the New York Times:

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