Cam Flaherty here. I’m pretty busy with spring planting, so I’ve invited several farmers, both real and fictional, to help me out with these posts. We have a special guest today, a young man who helps manage a local organic farm with two locations, JD Hutchison-Maxwell. He’s the Permaculture Manager at New Harmony Farm in Newbury and West Newbury, Massachusetts. He teaches and learns at the Plentitud educational permaculture farm in Las Marias, Puerto Rico. Oh, and he happens to be Edith Maxwell’s son! Take it away, JD.
We All Eat Together
Good cooking and garden-farming are really the same thing. They are creative laboratory artworks, in part based on recipes and formulas but mostly requiring a honed holistic sense and feel that we must cultivate for ourselves.
Think about the textures and flows of soils and sauces, the smell of “done” (steak or compost), working with living and dead biological forms: from rice crackers to alfalfa sprouts to live culture ferments, and from dried alfalfa meal to mycorrhizal soil innoculants to foliar sprays of cultured milk and other live solutions we apply directly to the leaves of our crops.
We are making so much life and death everyday, trying to guide and nurture ourselves and everyone who eats our food, not to mention the entire ecosystem of the places we are at. You need food, your body’s microbial ecosystem needs food. We all eat several times a day, and we all think about it a lot more than that. So you grow food or you buy food, you do something or nothing to process or cook that food, and you ingest that food. Sometimes you order out for pizza, just like sometimes you buy tomato seedlings or lettuce starts.
Often we ferment things, inoculating by intentional application of foreign bacterial, mycorrhizal, or fungal communities. We cultivate specific advantageous strains and species of microbes in different environments and substrates, like when making sauerkraut and beer, or fish emulsions and IMOs* for your plants and soils. It’s fun nurturing other life forms, and it is a lot of responsibility.
Most importantly growing plants and preparing food is best done for others. These are at times both solitary pursuits, but they are generally about enjoying the fruits of your labor together. We all need to come together and look beyond our small individual selves in order to find peace and justice within, in our communities, and in the world at large.
*Indigenous MicroOrganisms: a biological input to aid in growing healthy plants that anyone can make. A multi-stage multi-month process captures hardy local microbes on rice, feeds them sugars (brown sugar or molasses), expands their numbers to a larger quantity of wheat bran or similar dry material, and then mixes the inoculated composted bran with as much soil (or compost) for a finished stable product. From the Korean Natural Farming system, introduced to me at a recent NOFA/Mass workshop. We are planning on running trials of various KNF inputs at New Harmony Farm.
Edith reports seeing JD curled up on a couch reading a sneak preview copy of ‘Til Dirt Do Us Part recently!
Readers: What about you? Is organically grown food important to you? Have you ever heard about permaculture? Have you hopped on the fermentation train, or prefer to eat your food without microbial action? Or are you just wondering when the body is going to surface in Cam’s compost pile?