Our next several posts are inspired by a presentation that Gary Kline of Black Lake Organics gave at the Evergreen State College this May. The topic – Soil Analysis and Sustainable Agriculture – is one that Kline considers to be “the most important subject in the world.”
Tall claim? Maybe. Then again, is it?
Kline says, “Starvation is a reality in much of the world, but elsewhere malnutrition in the midst of an apparent abundance of food is now clearly the rule.”
Chilling words. But it’s easy to see what he means. Walk into an American grocery store, and find foods lining shelves higher than you can reach. Now look at the ingredients. Some of it’s impure: petroleum products, additives, non-digestables, industrial pesticides. Some of it’s cardboard, nutritionally speaking. Very little of the food that’s commercially available in mainstream America is whole, nutrient-dense, non-newfangled FOOD.
Of course, to produce real, nutritious food, you’ve got to cover the basics. Organic is a good place to start: cut out the chemical pesticides, added hormones, GMOs, etc. Also, make the leap: say no to the thoroughly refined food-substitutes that are so ubiquitous today.
But let’s go deeper.
Even if you refrain from non-organic pesticides, and you handle all your food using traditional (rather than industrial) methods, you can’t feed yourself on what isn’t there. The food has to be nutrient-rich, and that means the soil where it’s grown has to be nutrient-balanced. Soil health is quite literally at the root of everything we eat. It is the hidden, indispensable key to being able to nourish ourselves on this planet. Neglect the soil, and people starve.
On top of that, soil health means much more than “just add compost.” And, in Kline’s view, organic should mean much more than “just don’t add industrial pesticides.”
Over the next several posts, we’ll be exploring what it does mean – and how to do it yourself, in your own garden or farm. (Stay tuned.)