At this month’s Land and Table potluck we met at the Claytor Nature Study Center and discussed “Rewilding the Farm”. The group brainstormed ways that wildlife (and plant) conservation can clash with or compliment agriculture (ex: the coyote/deer/livestock debate). Both farmers and conservationists can be accused of one-sided thinking, but the solution to how to sustainably feed ourselves and be responsible stewards of the earth requires some give and take on both sides. Using permaculture principles we can farm in ways that mimic nature. This discussion brought us back to the reasons why we were drawn to farm in the first place-we believe that a natural system can do a better job of feeding us in the long run with perennial crops like chestnuts and apples, than monoculture system of annual grains that require mined minerals and fertilizer additives, degrading the soil in return. It is hard to maintain a conservationist mindset when your main goal is production- controlling invasive species (weeds), waging war on pests, not leaving enough time for decomposition which naturally makes nutrients available so we don’t have to fertilize. Luckily there is a huge network of people who are thinking up creative ways to farm naturally, so we can continue to design our system drawing inspiration from their experiences.
On another tangent–It seems like Lynchburg is in a make-or-break situation with the local food scene. Obviously local food as a trend is in full swing (you know it’s been bastardized when Subway touts local produce in their commercials), but as much excitement as there is about eating close to home, nobody wants to pay the farmers for the extra burden that is dumped on us once all the middle men are cut out. We have to do marketing, communications, finances, record-keeping, storage, transportation, and all the physical labor from seed to shelf. Of course it is going to cost more than the grocery store, especially when your produce is no-spray, which probably means a good chunk of what was grown never made it to market. I keep hearing about new restaurants and stores popping up that say they are dedicated to sourcing locally, but can Lynchburg support it? I want to believe that this will really work, but I think the way to do it is to keep it simple and flexible so the farmers are able to supply restaurants with produce and the customers can afford to buy the meals. Who knows, one day we may end up following our dream to do actual farm to table pizza dinners out here! We’ll keep you posted. But for now, enjoy your bag this week!