Whew!!…how can it be seven months…seven months!…since my last post? The line from the old Commander Cody song seemed to be an appropriate headline. I am the perfect example of what generally happens with many blogs. The energy, the persistence, the time, to keep any blog useful, original and current, is demanding. I knew it going in. When I teach marketing, this is exactly what I warn my students about….”blog fatigue.”
Enough of that…how about some excuses? Really, I do have some. First, an annoying, but minor illness set back me in early summer. Then, our farm struggled with the worse growing season I have experienced in 35 years of growing. Lettuce would not even grow in May! Zucchini would not even set fruit! Etc., etc., etc. In contrast, in 2009 we went through a record heat wave for Oregon…ten days over ninety with highs reaching 103 degrees! Then this year’s coolest summer on record. At least we know the parameters now when it comes to growing organic produce. If you are more interested in that effort, visit www.19thstreetfarms.com. We regularly record our farm’s adventure there, using the site as a marketing tool for our efforts. Some of the posts here will also appear there.
Anyway, moving ahead. Watch for new, longer content in the next few weeks. I will be looking at following and more:
• The Sustainable Nursery…This was the main reason for starting this blog. Here in Oregon, there are several recent programs started to try and improve the green industry’s “sustainability,” including the “Climate Friendly Nursery” program and on-the-ground testing I am doing with interested nurseries. Like all of agricultural and horticulture, the nursery industry is dependent upon petroleum products at every level of their operation. As the industry tries to recover from the worst downturn it has ever experienced, some growers are taking this opportunity to examine how they grow plants. After decades of steady growth, growers may have gotten lazy…they had the better mousetrap. As sales fall and oil prices rise, there needs to be a change and this site hopes to lead the way in describing and suggesting how the industry can become truly “green.”
• As an organic produce grower, I understand that any food system will have waste, sometimes throwing out considerable amounts of organic materials. First, the waste needs to be reduced. Fruit and vegetables with cosmetic issues are usually tossed. Why? Because it is easy. Lets find ways where good food can be channeled into the emergency system. Then, the non-eatable waste should never end up in a landfill! Modern composting and vermiculture systems can take that waste and turn it into a very useful soil amendment/fertilizer. This is an exciting area with many new developments in the last few years and the subject a new book, American Wasteland.
• The Vertical Farm. This idea drew my attention several years ago. I have continued to follow its development, and now, with the publishing of The Vertical Farm by Dr. Dickson Despommier, the discussion is getting more interesting. While I find it an intriguing concept, I have always wondered about the cost. Granted, the enclosed tower would be able to avoid some of the costs of soil-based ag, but can it ever recover the investment costs to build it in the first place? I will take a closer look after I finish the book.
• The urban gardening trend is finding more and more yards being replaced by intensive gardens, fruit trees, berries and herbs. It is a movement I appreciate, since I am an active grower. But, more importantly, I feel small yards are useless and a waste of space. I have no problem with a larger yard, one that is used by children and families for outdoor activities. Play on. But many urban yards are just small patches of grass that need to be mowed, watered and fertilized. Gardens that produce food don’t take much more water and fertilizer, and can be good exercise, and might even be close to fun. Good way to teach biology too! I will start with Square Food Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew, written 30 years ago (his revised book is readily available), then look at other related books that can help get you started changing your yard into a small farm. The posts will also cover innovations I in the “permaculture” concept that can be applied to your yards.
• We are seeing more and more green roofs and green walls, green streets, and even urban food production several stories up. As we follow this “plant technology” movement, I will report on new, innovative projects and follow the science now being done on these environmental technologies. I will start with a review of Timber Press’ The Green Roof Manual by grower Edmund C. Snodgrass and Linda McIntyre. Snodgrass is a true pioneer in the US green roof industry and his earlier book, Green Roof Plants: A Resource and Planting Guide is one of my bibles and a perfect complement to his “manual.”
• I also see this term of “plant technology” applying to many other areas. We are seeing more research on plants for fuel, besides the uneconomical corn. Even algae are getting research support to see if it can provide inputs for fuel production. New uses for plants will be covered on this site.
• Of course, there will be posts on important topics in general agriculture, new research comparing conventional versus organic, the latest on controversial topics (GM crops, Monsanto’s herbicide problems, etc.), and observations on a range of food topics.
So, look for new posts…there should be one by Monday if not earlier. Now that I am back to a regular schedule of writing, maybe I can keep posting on a more regular basis. And, finally, thanks for all the positive comments. I am working my way through them and will respond to questions.