Biodome Gardening and Food Security
Food security has many facets. It is easy to see that we are generally over-dependant on food shipped in from all over the earth (grapes from South America in January; apples from New Zealand in July; dates from Iran and almost any kind of food from California). It is also easy to see that this makes us vulnerable to supply line disruption and extreme weather events in other places.
At the same time, having access to an incredibly diverse range of fresh and preserved foods at all times is one of the great luxuries of the modern industrial world. We are fortunate indeed to be able to buy the ingredients for a Greek Salad in February or pull a bag of frozen strawberries out of the freezer at any time of year.
We are now living in a world that will likely have more and more unusual weather events and where we must consciously reduce the amount of fossil fuels we burn. Simultaneously, more and more people are discovering the delicious and healthy reality of fresh-picked produce and the satisfaction of having nurtured their food from seed to table.
I am certainly not suggesting that we should stop shopping at supermarkets and only live on potatoes and kale grown in our back yards, although you are welcome to give it a try. What I advocate is becoming more aware of the history of our food (like Barbara Kingsolver documents in her terrific book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). By becoming more intimately involved with where our food comes from, we gain an appreciation for the miraculous life-support network that we are all a part of.
It radically changes your view of food to shift from buying a sealed plastic bag of identical thumb-sized orange cylinders off the shelf at a supermarket, to pulling your first carrots of the year out of the damp earth, putting the green tops back in the compost, and immediately crunching on the roots.
Growing our own food, even just a few tomato plants, helps us share with growers around the world the uncertainties of pests and weather, and the joys of abundant harvest after days or weeks of patient waiting. If you grow fruit trees, it may even be a few years before your care and attention are rewarded with a sweet harvest. Planting trees and gardens is an exercise in optimism. Many perennial food plants take a long time to reach full production, but will continue to provide food for generations.
To pursue food security involves some insecurity. There is a chance that the crop will fail and then you won’t get to eat those delicious foods you were anticipating. (Thank goodness there’s still a supermarket to fall back on!) On the other hand, there is an equally good chance that the crop will be so abundant that you will have to study food preservation techniques or risk losing some friends due to an embarrassing need to give away excessive amounts of fresh produce.
Nature may be “red in tooth and claw” where carnivores are concerned, but it is also red in berry and fruit, and green in leaf and stem. Once you start growing food, you may never stop!