Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Every few weeks on the Farm (okay, maybe more often than that) I learn something new about food or farming that seems so logical and self-evident that I can't believe I could have missed it, and yet I realize I would never have made the connection if left to my own devices.

Take vitamins in vegetables, for example. It's a pretty basic equation - plant takes in sunlight, water, and nutrients from the soil and produces something that we eat. Seems fairly straightforward, yet I was blown away a few months ago when I realized that you had to plant crops that restored manganese to the soil after a round of tomatoes because, well, tomatoes are high in manganese...

Around the same time I started noticing that there are almost no birds in our part of the Oxnard plain. The occasional crow tries to eat our seedlings and the occasional red-tail hawk tries to eat the chickens, but you never hear much in the way of birds singing. However obvious it seems now, I didn't make the connection myself - there's not much for birds to eat out here after most of the fields have been sprayed or watered with pesticides. (Maybe that explains why an egret has recently taken to making daily appearances on our farm.)

I had another one of these self-evident epiphany moments yesterday. I've been listening to Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food (appropriately, while I pick organic whole foods), and yesterday, somewhere around my 20th bunch of kale, he made the observation that many of the techniques used in processing food to make it less likely to spoil actually rely on reducing it's nutritional value, thereby making it less attractive to anything non-human that wants to eat it. It just makes sense. (For more on what happens when you don't/can't block the other things that want to eat your food, see my previous post).

The thread running through all these "aha" moments is a slowly deepening understanding of both the complexity and absolute gorgeous simplicity of how connected everything is.

I'm so happy to be learning.

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