By Makenna Goodman
Having food resiliency is as much about learning how to store and use food properly as it is about growing it. The key is learning interdependence not independence.
In an age of erratic weather and instability, it’s increasingly important to develop a greater self-reliance when it comes to food. And because of this, more than ever before, farmers are developing new gardening techniques that help achieve a greater resilience. Longtime gardener and scientist Carol Deppe, in her new book The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times, offers a wealth of unique and expansive information for serious home gardeners and farmers who are seeking optimistic advice.
Do you want to know more about the five crops you need to survive through the next thousand years? What about tips for drying summer squash, for your winter soups? Ever thought of keeping ducks on your land? Read on.
Makenna Goodman: Many gardeners (both beginners and more serious growers) come across obstacles they might not have planned for. In your new book, The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times, you talk about the need for real gardening techniques for both good times and bad. What is the first step toward achieving this kind of resilience?
Carol Deppe: The basic issues are getting more control over our food, getting lots higher quality and more delicious food, and enhancing the resilience of our food supply. There are three ways to do that. The first is through local buying patterns and trade. A second is through knowing how to store or process food that is available locally, whether we grow it ourselves or not. The third is gardening. In The Resilient Gardener, I talk as much about storing and using food as growing it. I love gardening, but not everyone is in a position to garden every year of their lives.
However the person who has learned to make spectacular applesauce or cider or apple butter or pies can often trade some of the processed products for all the apples needed. Buying local food supports local food resilience. A couple hundred pounds of gourmet-quality potatoes tucked away in the garage — potatoes that you have learned to store optimally — represent serious food security, whether you grew them or bought them from a local farmer right after the harvest. Our buying and trading patterns and our skill at storing and using food as well as gardening are all part of our food resilience. All can serve as the starting point to begin taking greater control over our food.
So the first thing I would say is, garden if you can and if you enjoy it. Whether you garden right now or not, though, learn more about how to store and use the food that is grown locally. Lots of times, it is storing and using that is more of the missing link than gardening. Most gardeners know how to grow field corn. But most don’t have the knowledge to turn corn into gourmet-quality fast-cooking polenta or savory corn gravy or even cornbread (without using wheat or other things they can’t grow), let alone fine-textured cakes. Most gardeners can grow potatoes. But most don’t know how to store their potatoes optimally. Most can grow blue potatoes. But most try to prepare their blue potatoes just like whites or reds. Few know how to turn a blue potato into spectacularly delicious food. In The Resilient Gardener, I spend as much time on how to store and use food as how to grow it.
We humans trade. We enjoy it, and it greases the social wheels. Sometimes we use intermediaries like money, sometimes not. Sometimes the trades are formal. Sometimes we call it gifts. I trade or sell or gift part of the best I have. Part of the best of others comes back to me. My friends, neighbors, and exchange networks are part of my resilience. I aim for greater self-reliance. I like to enjoy doing more for myself. And I love to garden, and to grow food. But I don’t aim at “independence.” Healthy humans are never independent. We are interdependent. What we want is to be self-reliant enough to hold up our end of honorable interdependence. Our skill at growing, storing, processing, using, or trading food can all be part of our contribution to honorable interdependence.
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