Sunday, August 9, 2009

On the other hand...

Dan Barber wrote a great Op-Ed for the NY Times, You Say Tomato, I Say Agricultural Disaster, about the spread of "late blight," a plant disease that usually attacks potatoes and tomatoes late in the summer that has spread quite rapidly throughout the Northeast. An aid to the problem, Barber suggests, is the backyard farmer:

"...According to plant pathologists, this killer round of blight began with a widespread infiltration of the disease in tomato starter plants. Large retailers like Home Depot, Kmart, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart bought starter plants from industrial breeding operations in the South and distributed them throughout the Northeast. (Fungal spores, which can travel up to 40 miles, may also have been dispersed in transit.) Once those infected starter plants arrived at the stores, they were purchased and planted, transferring their pathogens like tiny Trojan horses into backyard and community gardens. Perhaps this is why the Northeast was hit so viciously: instead of being spread through large farms, the blight sneaked through lots of little gardens, enabling it to escape the attention of the people who track plant diseases..."

So now what? Well, I suggest reading the article but for those of you who prefer what my sister calls the "mini research paper" posts here on JustSaying, I shall summarize:

- When you start a garden, keep in mind that you are joining an agricultural network of farmers and growers. Spores (think late blight) spread.
- If you aren't growing from seed, which is the ideal method, pick up your plants from a local grower rather than large home improvement chains whose managers have little control over the products sold.
- Ask an expert. If you are concerned that a disease is festering in your garden, contact a local farmer or utilize the magic of the Internet.
- Grow heirlooms. They are cherished and carefully monitored by their cultivators.

1 comment:

Filatore said...

Here's another suggestion:
Never, ever buy anything from Wal-Mart--food, plants, underwear, Star-Wars action figures---anything!

I don't even look in the direction of Wal-Mart--and the late blight is another reason to avoid the community killer that is Wal-Mart.