Organic Gardening and More
"World Food Crisis"--Here and Now--Our Opportunity
By Calvin F. Bey CFBey1936@cox.net
We have all been hearing about what is now called the "World Food Crisis." As I have followed environmental issues over the past 25 years, I often had the feeling that future generations in the US would someday be facing food scarcity and food security issues. Never did I expect that so soon we would see leading magazines featuring the "World Food Crisis," nor country after country already experiencing food riots.
This world issue is now affecting us in the US and promises to become more severe. There are obvious reasons; oil prices are up, food crops are being diverted into ethanol, there are weather related crop losses, and grain futures market speculations that drive up prices. As Americans, our food prices in the past have been unusually low, so price increases now make for difficult adjustments. The fact is that rising food prices (40% world-wide in last 2 years), have hurt the poorest, first and hardest. For those already living on marginal calories, many will become starvation victims. It greatly concerns me that the trends described above are likely to continue and will probably even accelerate.
This "world" problem is here and now in the US. Many people in the US are experiencing hardships and becoming more concerned about their food supply. We are hearing more and more about sharpening our skills to survive under "rules" of scarcity. There has already been a surge in the number of people interested in home gardening. W. Atlee Burpee and Co. sold twice as many seeds this year as it did last year. Seed Savers Exchange ran out of seed potatoes this year and mailed 10,000 tomato and pepper transplants in May, double the usual amount. Stark Bothers Nurseries and Orchards Co., and others are reporting increased sales. I have had more than 100 people tour my vegetable garden this spring. Most were new folks wanting to learn how to do a better job of growing their own produce. While all of this is great, it is also an indication of a developing need in society—the need to train others in growing vegetables. To me, it seems a perfect fit that we as
Master Gardeners become known for helping to address the "world food crisis" issue.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we as Master Gardeners began placing more effort in our Chapters on how we can help others grow their own food in a sustainable manner? We could start by encouraging more Master Gardeners to grow vegetables for themselves and then training others. I think that this needs to be an entirely grassroots effort. By that, I mean individuals in Chapters taking on additional responsibility to learn more about vegetable growing and to help others grow their own food in a sustainable manner. It will succeed best if done at the grassroots level. Being a gardening mentor for a neighbor or a friend can be a very helpful and rewarding experience. Perhaps there could be more official MG projects that would fit into this category.
In the future, when asked what Master Gardeners have done to help with the world food crisis, I would like to be able to say, "We began by helping our neighbors grow more of their own food. And then the neighbors began helping their neighbors. And soon we had a community of growers and believers in an effort that made locally-grown produce a reality. Yes, Master Gardeners and their neighbors were important contributors in the grassroots efforts in making a difference for themselves, their neighbors and for the World Food Crisis."
I suggest that this idea be promoted in every Master Gardener Chapter in Arkansas and throughout the entire country.