J500 Media and the Environment

Food, Service and Industry by Sean T.

Farms are magical places. No matter what season it is, something is happening. In winter, you plan; in spring, you plant; in summer, you grow; in fall, you harvest. Through working with Douglas County Food Policy Council I learned how busy farmers stay keeping up with nature’s cycles. We can’t control the elements, but we can help them out keeping our soil and water clean.

For the most part, Douglas County has great soil. This (and a local market) encourages farmers to start new operations or continue with old ones.  After I interviewed farmers I learned that soil is a resource that can be easily tainted. Chemical runoff from neighbors and erosion from heavy wind and rain constantly irritate farmers. If we want our rich soil to stay valuable we–as a community–need to have a no-nonsense approach to chemical pollution of our soil and streams.

Through my interviews I learned that water is another vital resource. Every farm I visited had a different water source. One had a spring-fed well. Two farmers got county water from Clinton Lake. The last one I talked to had no choice but to collect rainwater for plants (her well water was too salty and her land was not near a water line).

Preserving this water and soil is essential to a local food system. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides decrease our farmers’ ability to succeed. Without water nothing can grow (including ourselves). We have to protect water sources as the wells of our livelihood.

Development is another issue. As the City Commission approves farmland for business parks they must think of consequences. Charlie Novogradac’s chestnut grove, near the Lawrence airport, is at risk of flooding if development continues. It’s because he has low-lying land; his neighbors are at higher elevations. If the areas above him don’t have open ground to soak in rain it will rush downhill and drown his trees. This is hardly the thank you note he deserves for providing the Lawrence area with organic nuts for over 10 years.

Community support is something that all farmers appreciated. It is what they need to sell their product. To grow community support, we should start an education mission for local foods. We need to get into grade schools, high schools and college campuses in the area. Big farms spend millions of dollars in advertising every year; we need our local government to step up and spend to promote our local growers.

The parking lot for the Farmers’ Market is an example of support. But a small one. We need to see gardens in abandoned city lots. Get the commissioners to tend to a garden. We need to get local food visible. If every citizen is a small-scale producer then we will be more apt to buy local when we can’t grow it ourselves. We have to start spoiling ourselves when it comes to local, organic food.

Farmers work hard enough to maintain resources. Through working with the DCFPC I learned most of all that local food needs all of our help. We have to contribute to reap its delicious rewards.

We need to start serving those who serve us.

The Wakarusa River (via Clinton Lake) provides most county farm water. We need to protect our water and soil to ensure a local food system for Douglas County. SOURCE-flickr.com

Sean T.

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