Commensalist Gardens

  (Logan, Utah)
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Evolving to Commensalism

Parasitism is when an organism devours resources at the expense of the environment. Conventional gardening methods, and unfortunately, large scale organic gardening optimize parasitism. Not only do they damage the immediate ecosystem, but negative effects ripple outward, having deleterious effects on the entire world. Monoculture farming, the intensive use of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, and the transportation of product to massive processing plants followed my transport to marketing venues thousands of miles away all result in our food system draining the ecosystem without returning any benefit. Parasitic relationships result in either the parasite exhausting the host environment resulting in both parasite and host dying, or the evolution of the association into one that is commensalist. We are at a point in our food production a transition from parasitism is imminent. I am hoping that we can move towards commensalisms rather than death.

Commensalism is often explained as “eating from the same table.” In these relationships, those sharing an environment co-exist without one organism taking resources away from others in the environment. Organic gardening, at its best, is a commensalist relationship. Adding organic matter, cultivating diverse crops, and rotating crops to prevent soil depletion are all approaches that move gardening from parasitic to commensalist. Urban gardening can go a long way towards moving food production from parasitic to commensalist.
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