Lessons from the Garden:Suckering Tomatoes

It’s 9am in the high tunnels and we are eager to beat the heat. With hundreds of tomato plants to be suckered, we set a pace to get out of this humid houses before 11am. Yes, we are suckering tomatoes. I started laughing when I heard this term, but this is the official term for the removal of those tiny parts of the plant that will grow into new stems and start sprouting their own flowers, which will result in more and more fruit. So, this seems like a good thing, right? Wrong.

These suckers grow so rapidly that, left to their own devices, we would have hundreds of flowers per plant and tons of beautiful green tomato leaves, but the fruit would be tiny and flavorless. Because just as it is in life, in the greenhouses and the botanical world, it’s all about allocation of resources.

As I sort through the rapid excitement of my next steps in life, with visa applications and tickets, I feel the need to ensure that my life be focused on a few, simple parts. If we don’t, we are left with tons of beautiful greenery but no delicious fruit in our lives. And if we’d like to extend that tomato metaphor, the leaves can be toxic, so while beautiful and ethereal in scent ( to my own nose, at least) the effort put into growing so much lush greenery is wasted as an inedible visual delicacy.

Our hours of suckering, gives me plenty of time to visit the important elements in my life. Time spent with plants and in the earth enable me to sort out the priorities. And as we end another successful Monday morning with plants whose fruit will be bountiful, I feel the same is reflected in my own life.

Happy suckering!

 

 

 

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What is a Sustainable-arian?

A few people have laughed and others have just smiled, while others still have inquired further, and these are the ones I am writing for. The ones who ask “What is a sustainable-arian?”

 

I made this decision to become a sustainable-arian as I learned more about the truly unsustainable practices that we presently practice in obtaining food. Namely, the practice of raising animals for meat is one that poses threat not only to our environment but to our resources of freshwater, our resources of clean air and can impact global climate change. Furthermore, many of the manners in which we catch particular seafood, such as shrimp, which are caught through bottom trawling, is unsustainable. Not only does bottom trawling (which is dragging a weighted net along the ocean floor to catch the desired fish) kill habitats and destroy critical marine ecosystems, but it also has the highest rate of by-catch out of any form of fishing. Up to 90% of the trawl’s catch is often by-catch: sea-turtles, fish, marine birds and even marine mammals. By the time the nets are dragged up, the by-catch is already dead having been dragged along the ocean floor, and the habitats are destroyed.

 

As for the land-dwelling creatures, it can require 518 gallons of water for one pound of chicken! How much did that quarter pounder from a fast food joint cost? 461 gallons of water! And for a whole pound of beef it costs 1,847 gals of water. Where does this gallon count come from? Primarily, they come from the amount of water needed to grow corn and grasses in dry climates that feed the beef over it’s lifetime, as well as the costs of it’s drinking water and the cleaning and processing of meat. The impact of meat goes beyond the water, and we have all heard that “going Organic” is better, but it’s hard to control secondary consumers. What I mean is this: while you can pick organic produce to put in your diet, cows cannot and do not, therefore the feed they are given is not always certified organic (though it CAN be), but the runoff from chemicals that are sprayed on the feed can effect ecosystems and organisms further along than we realize when we bite into that burger. Make sure you do your homework and think before you buy or eat and with listed stores and details on what qualifies as organic a good place to check is http://www.organic.org/home/faq.

 

Lastly, I want to say, I’m saying trying to be a dirty hippie, and I’m sure there are many more ways I can take steps to be more sustainable (and I’m open to suggestions!) but more than anything else it’s empowering to make a statement with my diet. I have some suggestions too, eat organic, wild-caught or if we’re feeling adventurous consider eating an insect or two (thousand?), they use far less water, energy and have higher protein content! Some foods that are far more sustainable that may appeal to you more include: Wild Caught Salmon, Mussels, arthropods or fishhook caught or farmed, for more details on sustainable and safe seafood choices visit http://www.seafoodwatch.org or http://www.fishwatch.gov.

 

Whether it’s vegan, vegetarian, organic eater or sustainable-arian is to know that you have a large impact based on your choices.   It’s empowering to be conscious of the choices I make at the grocer or going out, and when people notice and ask, it’s a chance to educate about conservation and making positive, sustainable impact. Because when you have the power to choose what’s on your plate, why not pick something that makes an impact far longer than the taste lingers on your tongue?