Our first order of seeds arrived in the mail yesterday. I had purposefully ordered them early to make sure we had them on hand when the first unit is operational. I was afraid that if I waited the store might be sold out of the particular varieties we want to grow, and then I also didn’t want to have to wait for shipping once we are ready to start our seedlings. So we have seeds available once the unit is close to ready. There’s something about a seed that inspires hope. From that small kernel life abounds, both literally and metaphorically.
Along those lines, my good friend Jim Gavin, who I hold in high regard, provided the farm a plug on Facebook a day or two ago but added a caveat that he didn’t like my use of the words “organic” and “sustainable” because of the political baggage they connote. So with respect to Jim and others who might feel likewise (I’m glancing at you Todd Wright and Scott McNabb), please allow me the opportunity to explain my understanding of those words and why they are central to the business model of the farm.
When I was an undergraduate, one of the most beneficial courses I took was Economic Geography. Literally, I was the only Liberal Arts major in the class, but the instructor was a brilliant man who knew his subject, and to this day, I remember some of the principles he espoused unit to unit. One of those was the idea of spatial economics. That might not be the technical term, but the concept is that the more distance between two economic entities, the less often they are able to conduct business because of time and cost. For many decades, cheap fuel and transportation made that concept seem obsolete, but now, as fuel prices continue to climb, the concept of spatial economics is once again becoming prevalent. Our current economic model for food production is unsustainable because in purely economic terms the costs of fuel are making it too expensive. Also, the use of chemically-based pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers is unsustainable because of the long-term harmful effects of these products on the soil, the groundwater, and the food itself. Additionally, because of overpopulation, our current methods of farming must change because very soon there will not be enough fresh water available to continue our current patterns of irrigation.
These are the primary reasons why I use the term “sustainable” for our method of farming. Organic hydroponic farming does not use chemical agents and requires only 10% of the water necessary for traditional soil-based farming. Also, because it is on a local level, the model requires much less fuel consumption, which ultimately will lead to lower prices. On a practical, economic level, this form of farming is the future because it provides a higher yield per acre and doesn’t damage its own growing medium. Whether you believe any of these concepts is your choice, but I do believe them, and I believe that if we continue moving forward in our current manner, we as a species will become the perpetrators of our own extinction. But I also believe we are intelligent enough to change our ways, come back into harmony with the environment, and still live in a democratic republic based on a capitalist economy. That is my seed of hope.