30 Bananas a Day!

I have a passion for agriculture, and I am an organic farmer in Media, Pennsylvania.  I ponder the global food system as I spend my days weeding, watering, harvesting food, and eating.

I just wanted to bring up the point that there is no magic bullet (and no magic organic orgasmic banana).  It frustrates me that in the US there are so many bananas imported to feed mouths that could also be fed with local produce.  The banana trade and other monocultures have real consequences:

  • Loss of biodiversity on farms that once grew habitat, other foods (edible weeds have their own name in the Spanish language and are not treated as weeds at all)
  • Loss of resiliency in the face of climate change (if the crop fails, hundreds of acres are laid to waste)
  • Poor nutrition in these foods as the soil ecology is out of balance
  • Erosion and drought as the crop does not support the soil as much as an intricate, diverse system of roots would, and these crops require more irrigation to grow
  • Culturally, people would eat some of their crop.  It grows in abundance in that geographical location, so of course the cultures eat it.  Sometimes the demand from the US grows so high (in the case of quinoa, coffee, chocolate, etc) that the price of exporting that crop prevents the growers from eating any of their own food.  It becomes more economical for growers to buy processed foods that can be imported, not fresh, and lacking in sufficient nutrients.  I see this as a form of slavery driven by the media, global economy, and most of all by American consumers.
  • Less profit for those farmers over time as the monocultures (which are promoted by well-intentioned American researchers) are not sustainable given the ecological resources.  Larger reliance on specialized machines that need to be brought in, as well as a larger reliance on fuel.  In Argentina many small beef herds turned into feedlot systems and then the bubble burst right as the ecology started to show signs of imbalance, leading to massive amounts of wasted land, money, people, animals, time, water, feed, and other valuable resources.

Miguel Altieri is a rad dude.  I heard about him when I lived in California and got to hear him speak at a conference this year.  His research resonated with me: The Paradox of Cuban Agriculture

Also, I have been considering the waste in the American organic produce industry: plastic mulch, irrigation plastic, row covers, high rates of tillage, dumping (organic, mined, and imported) products on the dead soil that leach and imbalance the ecosystem.  There are also innumerable organic-certified fungicides and pesticides that are required in greater quantities because they don't work as well as their conventional synthetic lookalikes.  They also cost a LOT more than the synthetics (because the marketeers can charge more, as the organic farmers are a captive audience and can only spray what is approved by OMRI)  These organic fungicides are killing bees

Your organic apple?  Sprayed with lime sulfur after every half inch of rain to prevent scab (a fungus that results in a blemish and reduces its marketability).  The reason why you need to reapply at least every week or so is because the fungicide wipes out the beneficial fungus and there is now a clean slate, every week, for the scab to recolonize.  Sounds a lot like typical invasive species management, eh?  See something you don't like, slash and burn!  Costly and ineffective?  You bet.

If folks knew how their produce came to be, would they still eat it from those sources?  Will there be a new premium label, such as zero-waste agriculture?  Organic has become popular, but there is no ceiling to how agriculture should be improved for the health of the planet.  I have seen growers advertise "holistically-grown," biodynamic, "grown using permaculture," etc.  There are 1000+ ways to grow food organically, but rarely do we discuss specifics (specifics that are blown up to the billionth as there are so many people to feed and they all demand fresh strawberries year round).  Consumers are rarely aware because trades are specialized these days and growing food is one of the least sexy (and most complex) to learn about.

If people were aware of waste and byproducts from their eating habits, they would probably opt to grow as much as possible in their home/community garden, where there is less economy of scale for such waste to come about.  There is a wealth of ignorance of the food that can be foraged, and that would round out the garden's produce.

Where are we going with this?  Can we grow ourselves?

A project that can be replicated all over the US:

http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/organic-no-till/organic-no-till...

http://www.phillyorchards.org/

Phil's Ted Talk

To all the other food growers out there (of ALL kinds): HIGH FIVES, THANK YOUS, HUGS, and HIP BUMPS

Tell me what you think, how you feel, what you would like to share in this discussion, and have a beautiful day!

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Amen to all this.  I've only been gardening for about 5 years and am still on the very steep part of the curve.  "Organic" is a sales pitch from what my research has found.  If you don't know where it came from there are very few assumptions you can make about your food.

Everyone should grow as much food on your own as you can.

You summed it up way better than I could have, Thanks Jeff!

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