Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reason to Garden: Food Security

People who have been to my house know that 1) I have a lot of fruit trees, and 2) We really try to garden as much as possible.

With the drought in California reaching Biblical proportions, I want to consider a moment why every single person with land or a sunny window should be doing this, too, right now, and expanding every season.

In America, we will have plenty to eat. We are a rich nation, and even as other parts of the world fall into decline, our industries and agriculture will find a way to trundle on for another few decades without concern. However, there are serious concerns. GMO fears are often overwrought at their face, but the dramatic impact this agricultural style that such crop systems promote is utterly destructive adn unsustainable and causing the death of the wild places of the world, and creating an arms against nature. Make no mistake: Nature always wins the arms race. In this case, our grain system is mostly secure. Corn, soybean, and wheat are all fairly secure and we have no serious concerns in America other than the system itself, which should trundle on destructively for another couple decades without serious problems.

But, vegetables, meat, fruit, and anything else agricultural? California is America's garden. It's where the almonds come from, the strawberries, the broccoli. Without California, most of the country will turn to local sources to meet some of their needs. In Texas, that means I can buy Texas watermelons, and Texas peaches, and even Texas pecans. However, it also means we get a lot of our produce up from Mexico. The fruit in our fruit section come primarily from New Zealand and Chili. Think about that, for a moment, about how far those fruits have traveled to get here. There are more Vietnamese fruit than Louisiana fruit in our fruit section, and Louisiana used to be famous for her Mandarin oranges and artichokes!

What it means when there's drought in California is that the places of the world that can support the needs of Wal-Mart and Kroger and Tom Thumb and all those huge chains are going to be large-scale corporations in inexpensive parts of the world that can grow food and ship it in cheaper than we could grow food and truck it in from the oil fields and gas fields and hay fields that surround our cities.

In these places of the world, particularly China, regulation will be lax and corrupt, and we will experience the myriad of problems that were, for a long time, relatively contained to the regions of the world where food was produced. Listeria and tainted meat have been our primary concerns, locally. Not lead. Not arsenic. Not mercury. Not typhoid or dysentery from improper sanitation among workers and working conditions.

And, regardless of our own food supply in the future, do you really want to be the one to feast while so many others famine to provide you your feast? Or, would you rather dig a few rows in the back yard, and dedicate two afternoons a week, and part of a weekend, doing what you can with what you have? Wouldn't you rather spray a plum tree once a week for a couple months with organic neem oil to kill the coddling moths, and eat what you harvest at low or no cost?

Permaculture landscapes are going to be a future for our country. Eating from your own soil, and knowing what you put into it and what you get out of it, is a future.

Do what you can, even if it is only a little bit, or as small as planting a single fruit tree for a single weekends' harvest. Maybe a few pots of fresh chard and lettuce and spinach, in a sunny window.  Maybe a row of onions among the rose bushes, where no one will even know that it isn't some sort of architectural ornamental thing.

Do what you can. Because the days are coming when you will probably want or need to do a little more, and the seasons under your fingers will be easier with practice.

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