Whether we were in California, where Brandon joined the farm apprenticeship crew at Green Gulch Zen Farm, or back home in Appalachia, we were delighted to enjoy the freshness and security of fruits and veggies and cheeses offered by farmers market vendors.
Then we talked. Brandon asked a question that elicited tacit knowledge. "Where do we go to get our beans, grain, and seed products?" The answer? Grocers and buying clubs who source from across the continent or around the world. Where's our food security when these foods represent more than 70% of our nutrition–the bulk of a healthy human diet?
Our confidence about food security diminished. It got worse. We started seeing how multinationals dominate these crops with patented GMO seed that promise more business for chemical herbicides (look up round-up ready) over nutrition and freshness. We looked at the tens of thousands of cheap processed products in grocery chains that are laden with high fructose corn syrup and wondered at the connection to the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in our communities.
That was 2007. I had recently learned about SARE farmer rancher grants. Brandon's farm apprenticeship at Green Gulch was ending. I was finishing up a fall project in Berkeley. We headed to Davis where our good friends offered us a place to write while they went off to work everyday. In gratitude, we cooked meals, shopped, and helped with laundry.
Over the next two weeks we wrote two SARE proposals, one of which funded our work on testing high nutrition staple seed crops like quinoa, amaranth, millet, and buckwheat in test plots on four farms in Athens and Meigs Counties, Ohio.
Before the plants were knee high, Bob O'Neil gave us the seed to grow a small test plot of meal corn. We got a call from a CSA in Maryland telling us they would buy all the adzuki we could sell them.
We very quickly morphed from novice crop testers to novice designers of a bean, grain, and seed staple food system. Why? Because unlike the veggies we both had experience growing, harvesting, and selling, we realized that although staples are relatively easy to grow, harvesting and processing require special equipment and without it we would not have the clean dry beans, milled flour, or pressed oils these crops promise us in their seeds.
We've just completed our second season (2009). We grew larger plots for market and are on the verge of testing equipment at the demonstration processing facility we are setting up at ACEnet. We've worked with several farms to grow Amaranth, black beans, buckwheat, and heirloom dent corn: Green Edge Organic Gardens, King Family Farm, and an Amish family in Morgan County. We are beginning work with OU's Department of Mechanical Engineering to develop appropirate technology for processing on a small scale. Together this work helps us gather the details about what it would take to build a regional system that impacts our economy, our farmers, our farm practices, and the food insecure--with an eye to policy on how public agricultural land and well head protection areas can be brought into the system to grow staple crops and how food bank kitchens can develop high nutrition cereal to distribute to school children.
Get in touch with us. There are opportunities to work with us on the farm, research policy, markets, and funding, and to join Athens Food Policy Council and the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative. You can reach us here or by phone at 740-797-4399 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Ajamian, Brandon Jaeger's Blog
I am going to try to do blog posts here and at other sites where we are part of an on-line community around regional food security and business. Here's a start.
Since we returned from a Permaculture Certification course on August 31, we've been busy getting ready for harvest and the opening of Shagbark Seed & Mill Co. We've been pushing to get our seed cleaner and mill in place in early October and equipment in place to harvest crops in the coming weeks.
Last Sunday we… Continue
Posted on September 18, 2009 at 10:38am