Watching Dirt

I headed to the WXXI Studio (280 State St.) to see Dirt: the Movie. It was part of the WXXI Community Cinema series which includes a couple more screenings in the coming months. Although you can see Dirt: the Movie yourself on April 20 on TV, you miss out on the panel discussion afterward. To be perfectly frank, the panel was biased toward the statement of the movie: that dirt is an essential, living part of plant and animal life on this planet. As such, there were no experts from Monsanto to provide a counterpoint to sustainable, organic farming (you may notice that I'm also biased and lean toward the message in the film).

So anyway, the film. It's basically an essay film that argues that dirt is, as I said before, an essential, living part of plant and animal life on this planet. Some cute animations and a half-dozen or so talking-heads plays into the standard structure for such a film. I don't recall whether it mentioned how much of today's food comes from non-natural farming techniques, but since I figure it's a large percentage, I think that's an important fact to remember. The film spends more time highlighting the efforts of CSA farms — "Community Sponsored Agriculture" — that provides a counterpoint to the debt-based system we've attempted to apply to farming. The overall message is that the artificial structures we've created that are supposed to increase farming efficiency and feed us all are not sustainable in the long-run, and we must develop a sustainable model if we are to not go extinct.

Now, about that "debt-based system". In modern farming, farm owners are expected to have capital up-front to buy seed and equipment they need at the beginning of the season; they recoup their expenses by selling their crops throughout the year. Typically they will get a loan — often a mortgage — for those initial expenses and hope to pay it back. However, forces of nature and market forces play a huge role and a farmer may not be able to match their upfront expenses. CSA's do away with the risk associated with a loan because members of the farm pay dues up-front to pay for the crop, distribute the risk of farming, and result in farmers not going into debt.

Anyway, they also gave out door prizes and I won a DVD set of New York Wine and Table along with a coupon for Patty Love to perform a consultation on "permaculture" in my back yard. I was trying to decide whether to join the CSA at Mud Creek Farm (McMahon Rd., Victor), so I took it as a sign and (once I pay my taxes) I'll buy myself a membership. I have felt the push to start getting into farming and sustainability — I think I'm going to start paying less attention to my technical skills and start focusing on more plain, traditional techniques and steer toward laziness through innovation.

About Peacework Organic Farm at Thursday Thinkers

I headed to the Rundel Auditorium in The Rochester Public Library (115 South Ave.) a little late for Thursday Thinkers. Elizabeth Henderson had already started speaking on the topic, Locally Grown: Green and Economically Viable? She farms at Peacework Organic Farm (2218 Welcher Rd., Newark).

The farm itself is owned by The Genesee Land Trust, Inc. (500 East Ave.) and leased to the farm for long-term use necessary to maintain organic methods. The farm offers people the opportunity to experience farming and to get 7 to 11 items of fresh vegetables for a full 6-month season from May 21 through November 15. The monetary cost is small, but it also requires 12 hours of farming in 3 4-hour morning shifts.

The farm is certified organic, meaning they use techniques of replenishing and recycling rather than using chemical pesticides and commercial fertilizers. They use cover crops like buckwheat to keep weeds down and to keep the soil healthy and nutrient-rich. They also maintain a "microherd" of microorganisms that work the soil year-round. In addition, they monitor reports from other farms and agricultural organizations to prepare for particular kinds of pests. Once, for instance, they sprayed their potato plants with copper to block a late blight — one of a few chemical-oriented approaches they take. More often, though, it's a matter of understanding the balance of flora and fauna to keep pest populations at bay.

They offer a Mayday Celebration on May 2 this year including a potluck dinner. In addition to Peacework Organic Farm (2218 Welcher Rd., Newark), check out The Genesee Valley Organic Community-Supported Agriculture (GVOCSA) for a similar program.