Week No. 17 – 2013 Season

Meeting challenge of population growth on a little farm every day, every season

I was surprised my sister wanted “Forks for Sustainability” as a memorial to our mother Ruth. Ruth died Sept. 12, age 86. “Forks for Sustainability” was a project Dela and I devised in February 2012. It raised funds to help Senegalese farmers acquire compost forks. It also helped 5 small American farms link directly with consumers here for more sustainable forks and knives in a farmers market and meals at home. Dela and I went to Senegal in January 2012 as Farmer to Farmer volunteers to teach composting. We taught lead farmers and farm technicians all across that country. We discovered an extreme dearth of farm and garden tools, noting especially absence of compost forks. A static compost pile can take up to 2 years to decompose into a rich humus 4 times stronger for building soil fertility than livestock manure. Turning the decomposing plant and animal matter pile, however, feeds oxygen to anaerobic bacteria. Simple turning can trim decomposition to as little as 2 months. The whole, natural process is an organic practice using human energy, sun, water, air, microbes – and avoiding chemical fertilizer, which takes 850 degrees F and 20 times the Earth’s atmospheric pressure to manufacture. Yoked to fossil fuel, chemical fertilizer is not sustainable. So many worthy causes challenge this world. Yet how many solutions endeavor with a simple practice by hand and farm tool to meet the challenge of population growth? That growth is set in our lifetime to undermine the world’s capacity to sustain itself. Every moment, year, decade we live, millions more, billions more people crowd in everywhere in this world. I was stunned into awareness of this problem’s implications on return to Senegal after 35 years away from there, going about the "day-to-day" in my native country. I returned home from Senegal the first time in 1977 after two years in the Peace Corps. Today, I recall as a child fearful conversations about "population explosion." A projected 200 millionth person being born in the United States sparked those fears. That was 1967. Lyndon Johnson was president. He told the nation we should all feel good about reaching the milestone. We had grown rapidly from 5.3 million people in 1800 to that number. Little could I have comprehended as a child nearly 50 years ago the implications of our country putting on another 100 million people by 2006. Now we're poised to watch the world swell from its present 7 billion to 9 billion in the next 35 years. When I was driven in January 2012 through the streets of Dakar, then out along highways across the nation of Senegal, human implications of this ongoing population explosion smacked me hard. Senegal’s population in my absence had more than doubled to 13 million. So many more children, teens, young adults were now everywhere, milling about in groups, on street corners and along dirt roads. Little wonder to me that 1 in 3 people in the continent of Africa is now under 15 years of age. NPR noted this recently on President Obama's trip to Africa. The memorial to my mother revives a question that looms over my every thought since the short 2-week reunion with volunteerism. How are my children, their children to get along in a world where population keeps exploding on an earth of finite natural and mineral resources? Will their memory of me be one of a generation of exploiters who gorged along at the trough, leaving no means to sustain those in successive generations crowding in behind? No! Forks for Sustainability, yes! Was it a brief rainbow of hope for Dela and me, shining between the trip we took together and discovered great need in January 2012 and the second trip I took alone in July of that year with a wide range of commercial-grade tools as prototypes for a single simple solution? Those tools Senegalese artisans now make, are proliferating as an incentive to composting in community gardens. At Scotch Hill, where we practice composting, too, you help us answer that question, every day, every season, every year. We sincerely thank you.

This Week’s Vegetables include:

  • Chard
  • Assorted tomatoes
  • Sweet Peppers (also yellow, orange or green and hot)
  • Fresh Cilantro/Basil
  • Pumpkin OR Red Kuri Squash
  • Gift of Cream cheese from our goats milk
  • Ice Box Melon (they fit in the frige!)
  • Radishes
  • Okra OR beans
  • Garden Extra – every delivery point gets something different (broccoli, OR collards, OR sorrel (leafy green with lemon flavor; try with fish or chicken)

Cooking Tips for the Week

Tomato Pie From a former Subscriber in Oak Park:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In alternating layers, fill 9 inch deep dish pie crust with 4 large tomatoes (sliced), ½ cup chopped fresh basil, 3 green onions or scallions (thinly sliced), ½ lb. bacon (cooked, drained, chopped), ½ teaspoon garlic powder (or minced fresh clove), 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper. In a small bowl, mix 2 cups shredded Cheddar (or favorite) cheese with ¼ cup organic mayonnaise. Spread mixture over top of pie. Cover loosely with aluminum foil.  Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil from top of pie and bake an additional 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold.