The garden under water

The last time flood waters reached this level in my area of Indiana was 1913, and, hopefully, we'll never again see flooding like this. What looked like a river recently rushed to the back door of my house, and, armed with a push broom, I spent quite a while trying to redirect it to the driveway. My vegetable patch was also completely submerged, but, considering what a lot of folks are going through now, I can hardly mourn the loss of all of my pumpkin plants and a couple of frogs from my little pond. True, the tomatoes and strawberries also took a beating, but, really, I got off easy.

With flood waters saturating their basements and ground floor levels, the people in my parents' neighborhood didn't fair nearly as well. I spent part of the weekend there trying to help people clean up. The hospital has closed, and it isn't likely to reopen anytime soon. The smell is awful, the devastation mind-boggling. What worries me the most though, is the fact that many Midwestern farmers have lost this year's corn crop. Some of them had already had to replant due to heavy spring rains, and now it's just too late to try to make up for lost time. Corn prices were already high. Add in ever-increasing fuel prices and you've got a "perfect storm," spelling hardship for everyone -- even those lucky enough to live on higher ground and those living in unaffected parts of the world.

Just this morning National Public Radio reported, "Seventy-seven cents of every consumer food dollar pays for what happens after food leaves the farm." Both natural gas and oil are used to make and deliver fertilizers and herbicides, and some farmers also use propane to dry their corn. And there are other costs associated with the transport of corn to processing plants for the production of myriad products. And what about the distribution of those products around the globe? It all adds up -- leading me to seriously consider converting my entire half-acre property into a microfarm. Until then, I'm going to get to know the local, small farmers around here even better, and, for all the renters and city dwellers out there, it's likely time you did the same.


Re-localizing food production makes sense for a variety of reasons, and as the co-author of SPIN-Farming, what I see every day are more and more first generation farmers from all over the U.S., Canada, Australia, the UK and South Africa using SPIN’s sub-acre farming system as an entry point into the farming profession. They are using front lawns and backyards and neighborhood lots as their land base and, literally, taking food production into their own hands. Perhaps most importantly, it is happening without significant policy changes or government supports. You can see some of these entrepreneurial farmers in action at