Losing Our Balance and Recovering It Again

Since we’re waiting for the seedlings to grow and the land to warm, before we can plant anything, I thought I’d survey some current stories floating around the world:

  • In the U.S., many traditional small farmers have been financially squeezed out of business by modern agricultural changes and artificially manipulated markets. (This trend is starting to be countered by the growth of organic and value-added farming techniques, providing a greater return to the grower.) This same process of small farm divestment is now happening in India, but with much more serious consequences. By fundamentally changing centuries of farming processes, poor farmers are enduring serious, needless suffering. Christiane Amanpour did a story on this and PBS created a documentary on the problem. Essentially, farmers are being told that their yields will be much higher with hybrid and genetically modified seed. What they aren’t realizing is that they must also have irrigation, fertilizers, and pesticides to see such yields. These cost money, if they can get them at all. At the end of the year, after not making quite as much as they thought, they are having to buy seed for the next round of crops, going into serious debt. This debt accumulates until, in despair, farmers are committing suicide. The estimate is that over 250,000 farmers have died, leaving their families destitute and landless. In a land where farmers live on $2 a day, it doesn’t take much for them to lose everything.
  • In the state of Washington, organic farms are growing at a steady rate. Amazing!
  • My favorite new toy: The Altec Lansing Orbit iM207 has the best sound for my little Zune HD. It just works so well and sounds so good. I will need to wax poetic about the Zune here shortly. I’m just in love with the whole little package.

In the next entry, I should have an updated picture of all the seedlings. Can’t wait to get planting!

We All Need Heroes

I’m going to say something I thought I’d never say…one of my heroes is a basketball player. (Hey, unless a sport involves a draft horse, I’m not paying any attention to it.) Will Allen has changed my mind about the potential a sports figure can have.

Inner cities have the worst access to good food. You can find lots of fast food and convenience stores there, but no fresh, organic food. Mr. Allen founded Growing Power,
which has created a revolution in urban agriculture. He’s shown that healthy, sustainable food can be successfully grown in very small urban spaces. He’s pioneered vertical and fully integrated growing systems, training people how to use them to transform their lives. The Milwaukee Headquarters is at the epicenter. In their own words:

“This historic two-acre farm is the last remaining farm and greenhouse operation in the City of Milwaukee. Since 1999, our Community Food Center has provided a wonderful space for hands-on activities, large-scale demonstration projects, and for growing a myriad of plants, vegetables, and herbs. In a space no larger than a small supermarket live some 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits, and bees.”

Growing Power now has multiple farms, training programs, farmers markets, youth outreach, and food policy initiatives. All of these aim to change the way food is grown and delivered to urban markets, providing better health for those who don’t have access and can’t usually afford fresh, organic foods.

Last year, Will Allen was awarded a McArthur fellowship to continue his vital work. This February, he visited Seattle and talked about the need for a multi-cultural, inter-generational approach to creating a new food growing paradigm. “All people should have access to food – and we’ve proven we can do it.”

Rural folk Intentions

The one hesitation I had when I originally pondered a rural life was whether I would feel isolated so far out in the country. Well, I needn’t have been concerned. This is the most hopping place…

(Yes, that’s an Easter pun.)

Starting in April, there is at least one festival per weekend, and, usually several. Rural folk intentionally gather and celebrate all aspects of country life and they do it with such glee.
This weekend, we attended the Garden Faire and then traveled to the Fidalgo Island Quilters show. Yes, that’s a bit much for one day, but we soldiered through.

The Garden Faire is the summer’s introduction to the local gardening organizations and suppliers. Wild Song, the organic nursery across the street, sponsors this event. It’s so fun hanging out with all our friends there. The Harvest Jubilee, our autumn farm festival, was represented, (more on that in a later post), as was the Master Gardener’s group. The National Wildlife Federation had experts talking about their Wildlife Habitat program, which helps people create havens for wild animals within their own yards. They’ll be having garden tours later this year on Camano Island.

Of course, there were lots of local vendors, with some amazing, hand-crafted products: African baskets made on-site, painted glass, fudge (yum), metal garden art, music, plants, BBQ, jewelry, and, of course, espresso.

Sufficiently tanked up on coffee, I drove our little group to Anacortes and we spent the afternoon staring at textile art. In one of my earlier posts, I talked about the integration of diverse cultures into the art of quilting. This show highlighted that integration and then added a few new techniques. Many of the quilts took their inspirations from photography, using embroidery and appliqué to show depth and texture.

So, if you make a quilt, especially if it’s a small one, what do you do with it? (Hey, they can’t all be king-sized masterpieces. That would be a lot of yardage to quilt and it would make my arms tired.) Well, you can hang it on a wall, you can use it on a table, (see?), or you can use it as a throw. You can quilt a vest, a jacket, or a vestry garment.

In fact, the techniques used in quilting often translate into other areas of endeavor. It is, after all, a practice in spatial ability, which teaches the ideals of perspective, the basics of design, and how to work with color. The very best quilts engage you while keeping you warm.

Lest we forget, the big Tulip Festival is going on all this month is the lovely Skagit Valley. Good scenery, good food, and, maybe, thousands of migratory birds for entertainment. Sounds like fun to me.