In Kodiak, Alaska, I’m an organic gardening geek. I teach the stuff through the University of Alaska and write about weeds, seeds and the beauty of kelp in my weekly newspaper column.
My husband and I grow a lot on our ‘postage stamp’ property. In the summer, it’s mostly greens, herbs and edible flowers which are transformed into 400-500 salads for our dinner cruise guests. So when I saw this article, The Elders of Organic Farming in the New York Times (Jan 24, 2014), I pushed the pause button on today’s schedule to read Carol Pogash’s piece. I hope you do, too.
The Esalen Institute in Big Sur California recently hosted a week-long conference where two dozen organic farmers–rock stars in the industry–from the U.S. and Canada shared decades’ worth of stories, secrets and anxieties.
Let me share a few highlights:
Michael Ableman and Eliot Coleman, a Maine farmer, organized the intimate conference. Mr. Ableman, the author of “Fields of Plenty,” (excellent read, by the way) is writing a book about the gathering. Deborah Garcia, the widow of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and a filmmaker whose previous films include “The Future of Food” and “The Symphony of the Soil,” is making a documentary.
We should all be happy, right?
Sales of organic food in the United States reached $31.5 billion in 2012, compared with $1 billion in 1990, according to the Organic Trade Association… So the grandfathers and grandmothers of organic farming should be joyous, but they are not. Their principles of local, seasonal fruits and vegetables have been replaced in many cases by year-round clamshelled tomatoes for Walmart, Target and other stores.
The big picture, from the garden “trenches”:
The sustainable agriculture these farmers practice goes beyond farming without synthetic fertilizer and pesticides. They adhere to a broader political and ecological ethos that includes attention to wildlife, soil, education and community. For most of them, the bottom line has never been their bottom line.
About their anti-establishment beginnings:
“Every one of us broke the law,” said Frank Morton, 57, an Oregon seed farmer, with perverse pride.
But don’t be satisfied reading things tidbits. Pour a beer or a cup of tea and read the whole article here.
Oh, one more thing: Promise yourself you’ll grow at least one salad’s worth of greens this year. It will change your life.