I've always been an avid reader. Dan is too, an so we subscribe to a number of magazines. The latest National Geographic came in the mail on Saturday. I love reading about the exotic places, cultures and animals inside, but in this issue, one of the stories was very close to home. On the cover, I spotted "How Heirloom Seeds Can Feed The World". The actual article is entitled "Food Ark". It begins by discussing Seed Saver's Exchange in Iowa, where we buy many of our garden seeds. The two-page photo spread feature of uncommon chickens featured a dozen breeds of chickens, and out of the hundreds that could have been used, two featured (Orpingtons & Phoenixes) have been hatched in our incubator here at the farm. The selection of potatoes, showcasing unusually colored and shaped tubers, included the blue that I enjoy growing. Of course I read that article first, and found that it introduced quite a few concepts that are familiar to me but not for many Americans: heirloom seeds and heritage livestock breeds, and the fact that they are in real danger of extinction; why reliance on a few high-yield varieties is dangerous; and that knowledge of traditional farming techniques is also slipping away as farming, like everything else, becomes increasingly mechanized. While mud huts in Ethiopia are much more in line with the expectations of this publication, much of what they said could have easily been written here too. Although I know I lead a far from mainstream life, I never really though of it as exotic enough for National Geographic!
Of course, I knew all about he concepts they were introducing, and to do more than touch on each of them was beyond the scope of the article. But I was really excited to see it because it reaches out to such a wide scope of people. Plenty of information is out there, but if you're not keeping up on agricultural or food-centric publications and websites, this might be totally new to you. An article in National Geographic certainly reaches beyond those niches. Hopefully, it will get even just a few more folks to really question where their food comes from, how it is grown, and maybe even inspire them to stop by a farm sometime.
It was also neat to see something I do featured so prominently in a national publication. Not only are we dedicated to growing, selling, eating and preserving heirloom seeds and heritage breeds, we're doing our best to conserve farming knowledge, too. Using the horses in the fields isn't some sort of gimmick, it something we truly believe in doing. To many, it seems like the hard way, and it does take more time to do many tasks, as horses need to rest, unlike a diesel engine. But to be on one of the horse drawn pieces of equipment, and many of them are antiques, with the lines in your hand, and the horses moving on your command is something powerful, something amazing. I know it's sustainable. I know it's healthy for the farm, the environment, the food and the eaters of that food. And in a very real way, I feel like I'm touching history. And by touching it, I'm keeping it alive, bringing it forward through time to share with my customers, and here online with the world. That is something really large, and surprisingly easy to lose when you're so focused on the day-to-day tasks at hand.