COLUMN: Agricultural changes coming at right time

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Thursday is Thanksgiving and I have a lot to be thankful for this year.

You, my readers, are one of the reasons for which I’m thankful. As the year comes to a close I think of all the kind words that have come my way from you. I think of all the questions and answers, all the stories shared and all the smiles exchanged. Along with a few seeds. You keep me on my toes and I thank you.

No one knows what the coming year holds for us, but we can be certain of one thing, change. Change is a constant in all life and we can embrace it or go kicking and screaming. Old tree hugger that I am, I choose to embrace it.

There are many changes going on in the world that will affect our future, and our food is one of the biggies. There are many movements going on to make our air, water and energy cleaner, in addition to a push for stricter regulations when it comes to the safety of our food.

The way we farm is also going to see some changes. Individually, many of us have made changes as we see new ways to do things. More and more growers are trying to be gentler on this earth. Research is going on all over the world to do just that.

Scientists are looking to blend contributions from big agribusiness with lessons learned from the organic side. One area of research that I’m really excited about is perennial crops. Imagine not having to plant something each year. Think of all the savings.

Perennial crops would save us all that work of preparing the soil, buying seeds or plants and planting everything. It would just come back every year, like asparagus or blackberries. On a larger scale, it would mean those fields of beans, corn and other grains around the world would not be plowed, just weeded and harvested.

By the year 2050 we will need to feed 9 billion people. A more sustainable way of raising our food is essential. Today, one third of the greenhouse gases produced globally comes from agriculture and land use clearing. Seventy percent of our water is used for agriculture. Water is further affected by pesticide and fertilizer use.

Remember the story of the first colonial Thanksgiving in America? We wouldn’t be here if not for the Indians sharing their crops: wheat was harvested from the wild, along with berries, nuts and wild game. We learned from them how not to starve.

Indians cleared and fertilized their fields with fire. They also killed off a few plant diseases at the same time. They used no-till practices and never wasted a thing. They made things last by drying and smoking. It was work that kept them in shape and everyone had a job.

I think we can learn a lot from those who have come before us and blend them with new techniques for a more efficient way to live sustainably on this earth. The key word here is learn, and that means change. Learn the why’s from history and the how’s will follow.

Don’t forget the Humane Society’s Rummage Sale is this Saturday, starting at 8 a.m. at the Legion Hall. You’ll find lots of things to save you time and money, and help us be gentler on the planet.

Now, get in the kitchen and help. There’s a job for everyone. Be thankful for all that we have because it all comes with a cost to someone or something. Just try to make it a cost we can live with in the future. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.