Since most of us don’t visit food banks and the poor are not very visible, it’s pretty easy to ignore their lack of necessary food. We’re all busy, after all.
As the number of people who don’t have enough food for their families grows, some food banks have cut their hours because of high demand. They’re simply running out of food. Generous donations of food and money are not enough.
So what can we do?
One solution: build raised-bed gardens in people’s own yards and get them started growing at least some of their own food. If the raised beds are about 2-feet high, there’s no stoop labor, no machines ever needed and the experience is productive, satisfying and even enjoyable.
Another solution: encourage our young people to become small farmers growing diverse foods local people enjoy such as potatoes, beet greens, carrots, onions, lettuces, tomatoes, chickens for eggs and meat and more.
Raising food for local consumption differs greatly from the massive acreage now used up to grow monocultures, or just one crop: “wild” blueberries, potatoes, apples and strawberries, among others. Those monocultures are mostly raised for export out of state and even out of country, often to Asia. They are also, excepting no-spray (organic) farms, heavily sprayed with poisonous pesticides, which means you and I may be drinking pesticide-contaminated water; many of us are.
Where will the money and labor come from to build these home gardens, which are our first line of defense against hunger? I suggest you propose your town and county officials to use some of their TIF money to build a goodly number of home-based, raised-bed gardens each year.
Staff and-or volunteers build the raised-bed gardens, then check up on the gardens during the season to ensure they’re being kept up and producing food. The best gardeners can be encouraged to get into small farming. There are thousands of fallow farms in Maine just waiting for people, young and not-so-young, to enjoy a certain and satisfying livelihood growing food for themselves and for their neighbors as they create small farm businesses.
Someday there will be a serious emergency, such that trucks cannot get in to deliver food. If roads remain impassable for days, how will people get their food? Supermarkets have only 1-2 days’ supply; in panic situations, it disappears within hours.
Of course people should keep food in the house for emergencies, but not everyone does these days. In remote villages around the world, villagers not only put food by for the village as a whole, but they also save seeds for next year’s gardens and harvest. We, too, can do this.
I propose food storage buildings scattered around the countryside, which should be overseen by those whom others trust to be honest. There, emergency food supplies can be kept and not touched except to be rotated for freshness; then, when emergencies strike, there will be food.
A seed bank can also be kept there. In case of multiple crop failures or serious contamination of the crops (e.g., nuclear fallout, overspray from nearby monoculture’s pesticides, deadly heat wave) one year, there would still be good, viable, uncontaminated seeds to plant for next season.
There’s still plenty of time to get your garden going this year. Find some old (untreated wood) wooden boxes, make sure they’ll drain excess water, dig up some soil from your yard, fill box, plant seeds, weed as needed (eat the dandelions, too; they’re very healthful), harvest and eat.
If you want to buy soil or “compost,” don’t buy any that says “biosolids” on the label. That’s sewer sludge from near and far. Always ask what’s in “compost” or “soil” when buying. You do not want sewer sludge in your food garden or anywhere on your property. It makes plants grow fast because it has lots of human poop in it, but also industrial residues and chemicals and pharmaceuticals people dump down the drain or excrete.
As an old Girl Scout and the oldest of nine children raised in a food-secure but money-poor family, I know the value of being prepared. We need to do these things now, while we can, while most of us are still relatively untouched by food insecurity that affects millions around the world.
Growing our own food and being prepared for emergencies makes good sense at all times. Your ideas welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy growing.
Nancy Oden lives in Jonesboro.