All right, one more try…
The late Richard Holbrooke gave an essential piece of advice for a question-driven life: Know something about something. Don’t just present your wonderful self to the world. Constantly amass knowledge and offer it around. It seems that fits the definition of a blog, at least a useful blog. I don’t what percentage of blogs are actually useful to the readers, but I bet it is a small number.
If this is not your first visit here, you know I have made several false starts at this blog. My first idea, and the one most developed when I started, concentrated on the nursery industry. But, the plant industry collapsed along with housing and commercial construction, as new landscapes disappeared like Missouri corn in this summer’s heat.
The 2008-09 economic collapse also buried my fledgling business…Sustainable Hort LLC. Again it had focused on the nursery industry and its slow move toward more sustainable production practices. But, there were fewer and fewer nurseries, as first the more poorly run operations went under, followed by well-run operations that developed cash flow problems. Now, even excellent growers with little debt are facing a demand landscape (pun intended) that has shrunk dramatically, with little positive in the economic situation to look forward to over the next few years. Making substantial production changes was the furthest thing from the grower’s mind.
As I watched the collapse, I made a decision…”people gotta eat”…and I returned to my horticultural roots and started a local, sustainable produce farm, using skills and knowledge from my Oregon State University Horticulture degree. Our first year, 2009, was great; the next two years were miserable, with last year’s spring being one of the coldest, wettest in history, followed by a record cool summer. But, we survived and are looking at our best year ever. (If you want to follow the farm and its activities, check our other blog at www.19thStreetfarms.com)
Last year, I also took over managing my hometown’s (West Linn, Oregon) farmers market, where our farm is in its fourth year of being a vendor. This dual role puts me in the middle of our localvore movement. As we continue to experiment on both the farm and in the home research garden, we also put our extensive marketing skills to work to find and create customers. Again, much of that is discussed on our farm site.
Recent USDA statistics show that the “small” farms are making a slight comeback, with farmers markets identified as a key marketing channel for their crops. Meanwhile, more safety issues with industrial ag products surfaced, more books appeared questioning how food is produced, both plants and animals products, and alternatives are appearing as part of a diverse “urban homesteading” movement. (Watch for blog for reviews on recent books on homesteading).
This is becoming more of a mainstream movement, both in who buys the alternative products and who makes them. We see more concern, activism, and even a new farmer generation, in younger adults. Newer forms of agriculture and horticulture are being explored, from intensive, urban mini-farms to green roofs being developed as greenhouse food productions system.
Plus, we see the world food system getting shaky as drought is turning the US Midwest into a new Dust Bowl, Russia is struggling with its wheat crop, and India is battling crop-destroying monsoons. A preview came in July with the food price index climbing 6%, with the grains category up 17%. All this before the drought’s real effects are felt.
All this is going to change our relation to food, how and where it is grown, what it costs, and maybe even the availability of more exotic items. This blog will follow all those activities that mark those changes, note the alternative that are working, or not, and use my personal, hands-on experience to offer a grounded, but contrasting view of the world of food.