From the West down to the East

November 13, 2009 at 5:12 pm (Agriculture, Musings)

so i haven’t had a chance to write a new blog for quite some time now, largely due to the fact that i’ve been traveling across the country from oregon back to pennsylvania.  there have been a few days here and there that saw around a thousand miles of this great nation, and the others were filled with exploring the nooks and crannies of parts previously unknown.  driving across the country like this really gave me a sense of the sweeping changes that the landscape undergoes, sometimes in a matter of minutes of driving (others many many hours).  i came up from the seasonally arid region of southern oregon to the lush green landscape and draping mosses of the pacific (coastal) northwest, the high desert plateau of eastern oregon and washington, the rolling (though massive) mountains of montana, the emptiness of wyoming, the grand and majestic colorado rockies, the overwhelming size of the great plains (which by the way begin in colorado as soon as you step foot off the rocky mountains heading east), the surprising beauty of the wooded rolling hills (albeit quite small, but what a relief) of western kansas, the epic sprawl af southern illinios and indiana, to finally return home to the stately splendour of the appalachians.  it’s a lot of landscape to digest over the course of ten days and it really got me thinking about a lot of things, but being as that i am a farmer i thought mostly about the abundance of farmland whizzing by.

while America is no longer a land of farmers (there are more people actively incarcerated than actively farming) it is still a land of farms.  it’s almost impossible to drive down any interstate in any part of the country without coming across farms (except in the Real Deserts), whether they be the endless seas of grain in the midwest, the cattle stations of the mountain west, or the fertile valleys of the east and west coasts, and on each of those farms there is a farmer (or farmers) trying to bring a crop in, make a living, and preserve the land as best he (or she) knows how.  which more or less brings me to the point of the day- Sustainability is a regional thing.  america is filled with mind blowingly diverse landscapes, ecosystems, environments, and weather patterns.  each of these factors (along with a myriad of others) affects what grows well, what kind of problems and pests will arise, and what the best control options are.  Fr’isntance; in southern oregon and the central valley of california, they recieve only seasonal rainfall (mid fall to mid spring), have extremely low humidity, and have access to water for irrigation, making it ideal for certified organic production (low rain and humidity drastically reduce disease pressures, as well as limiting the size of insect populations) and not surprisingly is where a large proportion of US organic produce comes from (especially the brands found in supermarkets).  in contrast, the east coast hs intermittent year round rain fall, high summer humidity, and no institutionalized irrigation network (i.e. farmers who want to irrigate are on their own to find water).  because of this disease pressures are exponentially higher, insect populations are larger, and organic production is much more difficult, and unsurprisingly more rare.  what this all boils down to is this: there is no national definition of Sustainability.  Sustainability is dictated by the environment, the prevalent problems, and available resources.  more on this to come.

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