Farming: 10/10 Challenge 2011

Last year, I challenged readers to plant a 10 foot by 10 foot plot of wheat by October 10th as a proof that it can be done. I am challenging everyone to do the same thing this year.

But wait, there’s more:

This challenge isn’t just about proving you can grow your own food, although that is an important part. It’s also about being ready.

To that end, I challenge you to do any or all of the following:

  • Plant a 10 food by 10 foot plot of fall planted cereal grain by October 10th. Such grains include winter wheat, rye, and some kinds of barley and oats. Good sources for this kind of seed include Bountiful Gardens and The Sustainable Seed Company
  • Install and plant a cold frame with fall plantings of lettuce or root vegetables.
  • Purchase a small patio greenhouse and populate it with potted vegetables.
  • If you have an existing garden, consider planting and covering rows of lettuce or root vegetables.

You can do this, but you have to do it. Your first step toward feeding yourself can start with this.


Read more at my Farming weblog…

Your yard could be making you money [UPDATED]

If you haven’t already noticed, world food prices have reached crisis levels in part on one of the tightest cereal grain supplies in modern times. Unfortunately, this trend only stands to continue on the heels of a terrible wheat harvest in China after Russia’s catastrophic drought last year.

What does this have to do with your yard? Simply that you could be growing cereal grains there instead of grass.

Consider that, unless you have grazing animals, grass is a worthless crop that costs you money in the form of mowing, landscaping, and fertilization (although why people fertilize grass they then cut so short it almost dies is beyond me).

On the other hand, a 10 foot by 10 foot plot of wheat can yield enough grain to keep a family of four in bread for a year and with wheat selling at $7.40 a bushel, it is easy to see how someone can turn at least a small profit on a small plot of ground. Depending on the size of the plot, the sowing method used, and the type of seed used, a 20 by 60 plot could yield anywhere from 1.3 to 2 bushels of wheat, and a 10 by 10 plot can yield up to 20 pounds of grain.

Now, I know that, especially if you live in a city, tearing up your yard to plant wheat can be problematic, but it’s not impossible, and wheat isn’t even the only crop you could plant. The point is that you could be making money off your yard, especially right now, and it wouldn’t take much on your part to do it.


UPDATED: Corrected my bad math and failure to pay attention to detail. See the discussion below. Thanks to Matt for catching my mistake.

Our industrial food supply is killing us

Right here in the Miami Valley is dramatic, tragic evidence that our industrial food production system is threatening our lives and livelihoods in direct and dramatic ways.

First comes the toxic poisoning of Grand Lake-St. Marys by an algae bloom fed by farm run-off. The bloom is so bad–and so toxic–that the State of Ohio has issued a “no-contact ” order for the lake over the normally busy 4th of July holiday weekend. Meanwhile, officials report that protecting against farm runoff requires voluntary compliance and that making compliance mandatory is “a political mine field.”

Second comes the attack of head scab and its byproduct  vomitoxin against this year’s wheat crop, which renders the crop almost useless for human consumption. While most agriculture scientists will say that this issue is more one of bad luck and wet weather than bad agriculture, I believe it also reveals another flaw in the practices of industrial monoculture whereby farmers fail to use sustainable crop rotation methods, cultivation methods, and genetically diverse, open pollinated seed, all of which serve to help protect against these very kinds of threats to crops.

These two local events are just two in a far larger number of events in the growing body of evidence that industrial agriculture production as it is currently conceived is well on its way toward failing and killing us in the process. All of the decades of nonsense that industrialized agriculture was the only way to feed the world’s population has served only to obscure the incredible fragility of the system and its true costs.

I understand that fixing the problems that industrial agriculture has produced is going to be a difficult and complex task, but the solution must begin with individuals making conscious decisions to support agricultural production that is not part of the problem. Thousands of sustainable agriculture operations exist all over the United States and around the world, very often right in the middle of regions otherwise dominated by industrial production. If enough people make the choice to support sustainability over industry, then then entire industry will change.

And the changes industrial agriculture need to make are clear: more people need to be involved in the undertaking of producing food; those people need to use methods that take a holistic approach to preserving land, water, and air for generations of food producers; food production needs to be decentralized so that all of the food is not being produced by a few people in fewer and fewer places; diversity needs to be reintroduced into the kinds of crops and the varieties of each crop being grown.

Without these kinds of changes, disasters like the poisoning of Grand Lake-St. Marys and widespread crop disease will only become more widespread and more devastating in their effect. Each of us have the power to help make these changes a reality, but each of us must make our own choices first.