Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kitchen Gardeners International

From Kitchen Gardeners International:

Dear Kitchen Gardener,

I feel like I say this nearly every year, but what is up with the weather? Here in Maine, USA, the rainfall for June and July was the most for those two months combined since records have been kept, totaling nearly 20 inches. All that wet created a perfect storm of conditions for the spread of late blight which is wiping organic tomato production off the map across the Northeast, my own backyard crop included. Record rains are also pummeling crops and gardens in parts of the south, creating flash flood conditions.

Meanwhile, places that are normally temperate and moist like the American Northwest are breaking records of their own for heat and drought. And in India, the monsoon season, the main source of irrigation for the country’s 235 million farmers, may be the weakest in recent memory and has already sent global sugar prices to 28-year highs. Organic kitchen gardeners are usually hopeful types, but it's hard to find a silver lining in all the climate chaos out there.

I have found some cause for hope this year and in unlikely places: the actions of our elected officials. You, more than any other group, are aware of the important role the White House kitchen garden in playing in changing mindsets about what good food is, where it comes from and who is capable of producing it. In a recent interview on NPR, author Michael Pollan credits the White House kitchen garden as being the most important food and agriculture initiative the Obama administration has taken to date. First Lady Michelle Obama decision to dig it is has helped start a kitchen garden revival which is rippling across the globe, from places as diverse as downtown Provo, Utah to Buckingham Palace. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently added to the momentum by declaring the last week of August "National Community Gardening Week."

Even more hopeful was the news coming out of the UK government yesterday in the form of "Food 2030," an ambitious process to create not merely a home-grown week, but indeed an entire home-grown generation. While Food 2030 focuses on the role that British citizens, farmers, and food producers can play in boosting their own country's food production, the forces driving the initiative are global. The United Nations has estimated that we will need to increase world production by 70% by the year 2050 if we are to keep up with population growth. Put in another, more sobering way, we will need to grow more food over the course of the next 40 years than we have produced over the course of the past 10,000 years combined. To add to the challenge, we'll need to grow all this new food in an increasingly unstable and unpredictable climate using a greatly depleted natural resource base. Even Pentagon officials, not known normally for their tree-hugging or kale-nibbling habits, are starting to recognize global climate change as a gathering national security threat.

The good news is that we will have an abundance of two natural resources to help us meet the world's food security challenge: sunshine (in theory) and people. Getting these people to work in partnership with sun to grow healthy food is where we the kitchen gardeners of the world have a role to play. More than just doing it ourselves (which often seems sufficiently heroic on its own), we need to be thinking about how we can share our resources, our knowledge and our passion to help others - both near and far - to achieve greater levels of food self-reliance and food security.

... One easy thing you can do on your own is to invite people into your own garden to see what's growing on and a great day for doing that for many of us in temperate, northern climates is August 23rd, Kitchen Garden Day. Please consider opening up your own garden to friends, family, neighbors and other interested people. Websites and online communities are great, but they can't replace the real-time exchange of information that happens when people get together in person over a healthy bed of cabbage.

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embracing a sustainable lifestyle as a Locavore ... using locally grown and produced ingredients whenever possible ...

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