Notes from Windward: #67


Of Peaches and Gardens

Lindsay shares some initial reactions and later thoughts

     When I first arrived at Windward, one of my initial instincts was to plant seeds. While the greenhouse supplied suitable amounts of lettuces, salad greens and cooking herbs, I didn't really notice many other vegetables growing.

     In the garden, there were, and still are, a few corn stalks, a half dozen tomato plants with ripening fruit, several flowering onions soon to be setting seed, and several raised beds-- both traditional wood framed beds as well as large equipment tires filled with soil and topped with hay mulch. The young fruit trees have winter squash planted at their base, Walt mentioned the potatoes had yet to be harvested, and upon entering the kitchen I saw many multiples of garlic cloves that had been recently harvested and braided together. Clearly, there was some attempt at raising food for the Windward community.


     But as someone who loves eating veggies, enjoys cultivating food, and quite frankly, was expecting to see a large, lush, summer garden full of ripening vegetables to feed this community of individuals promoting the paradigms of ecological sustainability, human-scale technology, and a localized economy, I was a little disappointed and somewhat confused. So, I planted some kale, spinach, bok choy, radishes, peas and salad greens, in the hopes that we could enjoy some healthy, home grown produce as the days grow shorter and nights cooler.

     To bring more fruit into the kitchen, I have been picking wild apples and blackberries and reveling in their abundance and tastiness. While these wild offerings are much appreciated and free, the human cultivation of plants known as modern agriculture produces an astounding amount of food, and with cheap fuel can afford to produce an astounding amount of "waste." As the authors of Cradle to Cradle point out "waste equals food," a phrase which we take literally. For example, today we brought home 80 pounds of peaches-unblemished, delicious peaches-that would have otherwise been discarded as waste all because the wind was especially strong that day and had caused them to fall onto the soft, cultivated soil under the tree.


     The Columbia River and the snow melt from Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood supply irrigation water for multiple agricultural communities within a 100 mile radius from Windward. This irrigation water combined with the mild regional climate allows farmers to create optimal growing conditions for most types of produce, fruit and grains. As a result, fresh local food is not in short supply; rather the challenge is more along the lines of finding ways to utilize an overabundance of food, paying close attention to seasonality, and being able to process and store the food for future use--perhaps this winter, perhaps when the end of cheap fuel forces producers and consumers to realize that what is now considered waste is actually valuable, wholesome food.


     So by intentionally locating in a highly productive agricultural region, Windward has afforded itself the opportunity to focus its limited resources, time and energy on projects that will serve to help sustain the community in the future when food and fuel won't be so readily abundant. While we will still enjoy the benefits of a modest home garden, it doesn't make sense in this context to dedicate most of our labor to growing large amounts of food using well established traditional organic techniques--there are lots of places doing that.

     Instead, by taking advantage of the current system's wastefulness, our efforts can be focused on ...
  • experimenting with integrated food production systems that require a little more fiddling and tweaking to understand and perfect, but that offer the potential to provide a diverse and nutritional diet with minimal water and energy inputs,
  • on developing techniques for creating fuel and electricity from resources available on site, and
  • on creating an organizational structure that allows interns to become stakeholders and create value within Windward.

     So, that large, lush garden is here. It just takes a little longer to look for it, and the seeds will take a little longer to germinate.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67