Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Home Garden Plot Part I: Use what you got


You don't know what you got til it's gone.  The truth of that overused cliche could never have felt more real than during my current withdrawal from not living and working directly on a farm.  Although the world of research agriculture is fascinating and important, there is nothing like a stash of delicious homegrown veggies growing just steps away from your door.  No trips to the market, questions to ask, determining if prices are fair, deciding which company or farmer seems most trustworthy or who has the best reputation.  Trying to determine the differences between the supermarket organic brands and market brands can be time consuming.  Although I believe in buying local, which generally means closer to harvest when purchased, it still leaves a lot of unanswered questions.  In this "wild west" time for food production there's no easy "best" option for you and your family.  Observing my own transition, I've gone from a person who almost never bought produce, to growing my own food (basically living in the produce section) and now purchasing food as a more conscious, yet fairly confused consumer.  It's a weird in-between, last year I bought food to supplement what I grew and now I find myself growing food to supplement what I purchase.  Not bad, just different.  Compromises and opportunities offered with each choice, and choices, although at times frustrating, are a beautiful freedom I am thankful for.  Today we are touching on a simple and...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Plant Breeding: It's not just about science, we need it


We recently looked into the basics of plant breeding at Cornell University.  We talked about the different shapes and sizes of our everyday food, but this story goes much deeper.  This isn't just about pretty fruit, it's the everyday miracle of life.  It's easy to take for granted that sparkling fruits and veggies just appear everyday at the local store, but the story that unfolds when tracing those veggies back is incredible.  There are teams of researchers and farmers working to select and develop the highest quality produce.  As we all see in the news and in our lives, there are challenges we must face everyday, there is no exception for plants.  As the seasons change, as the climate changes, as the soil changes, each plant must learn to adjust or face its inevitable demise.  Unlike humans, the earth and cosmos don't think in 79 year lifetimes, these evolutionary battles rage on for thousands of years, but incredibly, humans can step in and play a role in assisting our plant friends if only for the selfish reason that we rely on them for sustenance.  It's not to say these plants wouldn't survive without humans, as they did this for thousands of centuries before we came to exist, but the wild and domesticated varieties in which we can eat do need us to continue to propagate them and maintain their seeds.  If it wasn't for human intervention, we may not have a...