It goes beyond dollars and cents

So you want to address global warming and eat sustainable produce. You’re a “Doomsday Prepper” and you want a way to replenish your food supplies. I have followed and participated in the organic food movement for most of my life. My reason has been food allergies. I have found many people looking at growing their own food for many different reasons. I have also found that many methods have been used again based on different reasons. One thing I have always found is that growing food is ether labor intensive or energy intensive or both.

“any way you look at it, a single farm producing a diverse range of clean food on a community scale is darn expensive compared to supermarket prices.”

Due to modern agricultural methods we are producing some of the cheapest calories in the history of the world in terms of labor hours spent to buy food. Does it carry environmental cost, health costs, etc. The answer is yes. As milkwood points out in the article above, will people in an industrial society pay four dollars a pound for potatoes when a five pound bag goes for a couple of bucks. In America, there is a reason that many small farms have disappeared. They could not afford to sell what they produced at the prices that large scale farms could sell them at. So what happens is that generally organic food becomes the food of the wealthy. Even this has changed as organic foods have been adapted for large scale production. Again, some small scale operations have been forced out. So how do you make this work? From a personnel point of view I focus on the low hanging fruit.

In my area herbs are easy to grow but not cheap in the store. So my first focus on organic sustainable is herbs. Herbs make a big difference between ok meal and a very flavorful meal. Herbs and spices can also be used to keep food from rotting.
To support this investment I also obtained a food dehydrator that has a temperature control for different types of drying. This has allowed storing of products in the winter. To further expand on this I now create vinegars for some herb like tarragon.  Also, some herbs like basil can be frozen in ice cube trays to be used in sauces and pesto.  This method is in line with the start small and learn theory.

Next on the low hanging fruit is fruit, but not the type you think. I am talking Tomatoes, peppers, and egg plants. Much of the fruiting vegetables sold in the store are not really ripe when they are picked. They are ripened and look ripe. However, sugar production stops when the fruit is picked. So the flavor of a tomato ripened on the vine will have more sugar than a tomato picked for shipment.  With peppers the long peppers produce earlier and in greater abundance than the bell peppers. The other factor is there are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and egg plants that you will never see in a grocery store. So these were the next low hanging fruit. Once production was high enough freezing, canning, and drying became possible. Most of my peppers are now dried along with a lot of my tomatoes. The peppers I have canned have been used as marinades for pork and chicken. I was also surprised by all the uses for dried seed free tomatoes.

After these were mastered the focus became garlic. I have several tubs of different types of garlic ready to sleep through winter and grow again in spring. If you look at garlic there are only a few types sold in the stores. Again this is a plant where there are hundreds of varieties.  It also has a high enough price that it can be cost effective to grow. So it has been added to the garden. This grow and learn continues until you reach a balance between your time, money, and efficiency in you gardening methods.

There was a time when food producing plants were an important part of our landscape. It was not uncommon to have a fruit tree in the yard and some berry bushes in the yard. As we moved to cities we lost touch with our past. When people moved from cities to suburbs after WWII we wanted tidy little yards. Fruit bearing plums, cherries, pears, and apples were replaced with flowering plums, cherries, pears, and apples because we did not have to deal with decaying fruit.  We wanted grass lawns that required watering and fancy flowers and shrubs that were easy to maintain and looked good. Many time we deliberately put in inedible plants so we did not have to deal with wildlife such as rabbits and deer. As we cooked less and less even having food at home became less and less important. If you did not have anything at home to cook for dinner you just grabbed something on the way home.  Our modern life style is based on low cost (dollar wise) food. As the milkwood article says we have lost touch with the seasons. When I was young I first learned of the seasons. Not the seasons you know summer, fall, winter, spring. I learned of the clam tides, the fiddle headed ferns, the salmon runs, the mushroom patches, etc. Everything related to food was in its own season in Alaska when I was young. I remember how the old people always referenced time in terms of some type of harvest. Our modern lives are no longer linked to harvest and growth so we have lost this connection. All we have left now are the four seasons.


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