An Invitation to HarvestOctober 12, 2011
In celebration of World Food Day and the fall season, regular contributor Noah Jackson invites readers to join his seasonal harvest…
Fall is an invitation to harvest. Here in the Pacific Northwest, there might be 280 growing days a year. Given our rains, though, this temperate rainforest from which I write gets about half the sunlight of the tropics, where the majority of Rainforest Alliance smallholder farmers work. The advantage of our relatively long growing season combined with substantial rainfall makes this an interesting region in which to grow and harvest food.
Washington State is my place in the US to dry out my field notes and prepare for my next projects. Even though this is a wet temperate rainforest, with subtle shifts in temperature and cool days, there is still a sense that the harvest season is ending. Like a lot of small farmers who have not constructed hoop houses or greenhouses to extend the growing season, we have to work with what we have and make the most of our seasonal crops.
Over the past few mornings, I’ve watched the last of the pears fall. Yesterday, with the help of the neighbor’s bucket loader (normally used for electrical repairs), we harvested the last of the season’s apples. The garden is getting a little colder and wetter. The tomatoes have faded and we’ve picked the squash to protect it from slugs. The last of the wheat has been harvested and we’ve stored it in a bag until we can get to it. In the evenings, we work late to process the remaining food — the sweets and the greens that will nourish us through the winter.
I grew up farming. The fall in the States, just like the end of a good season in the tropics, is an invitation to harvest and put away food. We work at it, filling one compost bin and then a second with apple pulp from cider pressing and nut casings from which we’ve already extracted oil. These days are filled with a kind of reckless abandon; yesterday, we had many things going at once. There were heaps of gleaming greens from the garden on the counter while grape juice (some for juice, some for wine) sloshed dangerously close to the top of the pot. The day before, we came into the house soaking wet and cold – we’d been outside embracing the mushroom season, during which there is just a small window of opportunity for harvest.
Readers of this blog often ask about engagement. How do we reach out to small farmers? How do we connect the dots between what is local and the commodities we consume from the other wet, tropical rain forests of the world?
I look out at the rain. Past my muddy boots on the porch, there is a small home garden. Not too far from here there are networks of small farms that help; other bags of produce grown far away — coffee and cocoa — sit comfortably in one corner of my studio. It’s a microcosm of our global harvest.
While writing this blog entry, I spent some time looking at global food production data sets, trends and forecasts for agriculture productivity, declining land and energy availability. Doing so, I realized that we are going to have to take on some of the extra work to meet global need and face these challenges. If anything, this should be seen as an increased opportunity, an invitation to harvest. Engage with what ground or land you have. You can grow a lot in a kitchen window. And you can always learn something from one of your local farmers.
In the United States and Europe, it’s officially fall. The fact that there is something to harvest should be an invitation. Work with the land, try to meet local farmers at the market and try to buy sustainable products, like those bearing the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal. You can be part of a sustainable future for local and global farmers alike.