Posted by: Bill Stoneman | July 18, 2009

Growing spinach in the snow

The argument against raising food in our backyards in cold places may seem stronger than the argument for doing so. Our forebears mostly gave up the hard work a couple of generations ago as commercial growers, especially in warmer places, proved themselves so much more efficient.

In purely economic terms, at least in the short term, it’s tough to beat the supermarket. Believe it or not, however, food production is making a minor comeback in the Snow Belt, including vegetable gardens and a few egg-laying hens in city backyards.

And growers can find plenty of good reasons, ranging from satisfaction in seeing – and tasting – the fruits of one’s own labors to positive view toward organic food to long-term environmental and economic questions. For example, commercially produced food is cheap in the United States today, no question about it. But what would a sustained rise in energy costs do to food prices? And what about pressure to curtail carbon emissions and nitrogen runoff into our waterways. Indeed, a June 2009 National Geographic article says that worldwide food consumption has been greater than production for the last several years.

Please join me in learning about backyard growing in places like where I live in Upstate New York, where we can’t count on more than 120 days between the last frost in the spring and the first one in the fall, but where we can nurture spinach straight through the shortest days of December and the coldest days of January.

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