If you’ve read Prairie Grown, you may have noticed that I like to quote Wendell Berry. His writing, and his ideas about the world, have influenced my own significantly, and I got to wondering if there was a story behind why my folks have so many of his books. Mr. Berry has written over 40, and I would wager a guess that most of his titles have graced the Hillside Prairie Gardens homestead at some point during the last 40 years. My parents have a small organic farm, one that is committed to keeping the health of the soil good and contributing in a positive way to the local community — much of Mr. Berry’s writing focuses on those basic principles of sustainable agriculture.
“For the true measure of agriculture is not the sophistication of its equipment the size of its income or even the statistics of its productivity but the good health of the land.”
― Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
A lot happens over the course of single season during the life of a garden. By November, the plants that produced all sorts of good things during the summer have become compost, the fields have been tilled under to mark the close of the growing season, and the leaves on the aspen trees have turned from green to gold. Enough food was grown to eat, to preserve and to sell. Abundance sprang from the soil and found its way out into the world. Pounds of produce were harvested and enjoyed.
There were some things that didn’t work, as there always are in farming and gardening. Maybe there wasn’t enough mulch in some places, and the rows ended up being waist high grass by September. Perhaps the raspberries wanted more water than they got, or the cucumber beetles decided to feast on the melons. It’s likely that uses for cucumbers and zucchini ran out and some giants got left in the field. But the farm was alive with growth, and it lived for another season, despite challenges-or perhaps it lives on year after year because of them and the contrast they provide. Continue reading
It’s starting to truly feel like spring in Minnesota, where I live. And spring in mid-west America means that farmer’s markets, CSAs, roadside stands, u-pick berry farms, and community gardens are not so far away. We tend to celebrate the re-engagement with fresh foods around here because in this part of the world, winter is long and the growing season is short. Some of us have greenhouses and high tunnels and grow lights to extend the season, but the days when tomatoes and peppers and lettuce thrive outside with only the sun above and the soil below are days to anticipate and look forward to with joyful expectation. Continue reading