Hosted by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), National Ag Day was launched in 1973 to recognize the important contributions of America’s farmers and ranchers. It’s a day to celebrate the industry for providing almost everything we eat, use, and wear on a daily basis.
How much do you know about agriculture? Often students only learn about it in very general terms unless on a specific vocational track, so if the answer is “not much,” that’s okay. As more businesses are able to re-open for customers, keep an eye out for farm tours, farm stay, and vineyard tour opportunities throughout Sonoma County.
In the meantime, supporting your local farmers is a great way to help reinforce your community’s self-sufficiency and go a little greener at home, all while reducing waste and saving money. After all, the more you learn about agriculture, the more you can appreciate those who do this for a living! Continued from our post last week, here are more ecologically sustainable resources to consider if you’re exploring creating, joining, or doing in your local community, agriculture edition.
Feed Back Into Your Garden
You can reduce waste, save money, and build self-sufficiency by turning your non-animal food scraps (fruits, vegetables, peelings, bread, cereal, coffee grounds and filters, tea leaves and tea bags) and more into compost.
DIY compost bins can be created from typical household items, and if you have a garden it’s an easy source of fertilizer. Works great for keeping biodegradable materials out of the landfill, too! Keep a small bin in the kitchen to store scraps, and empty it into your outdoor compost bin as needed to reduce orders and avoid attracting fruit flies. These homemade stationary bins are easy projects if you remember the basic elements needed for compost to thrive: moisture, oxygen, and warm temperature.
At Emeritus we use compost as an organic matter builder for areas where the soil could use a nutritional boost. Since we’re an estate-grown vineyard, we’re able to skip on composting food scraps that are commonly composted at home. Instead, we jump straight to using grape pumice—aka the skins, pulp, seeds, stems, leaves, and other residue from winemaking after the juice has been pressed out and fermented. We get about one ton of pomace from every three tons of grapes, then add it to our compost heap with a healthy dose of cow manure from a local dairy and sheep manure from the sheep that we sometimes turn loose to graze in the vineyard. This potent mix is spread around about a third of our land every year, nourishing the next vintage of wine and pumice in a poetic and sustainable circle of life.
If you’re low on space, another option that’s perfect for small spaces is to set up a DIY wormery. Worms can live happily anywhere that meets their basic needs of air, darkness, moisture, and a fairly stable temperature (not too hot or too cold). For every pound of worms and assuming ideal bin conditions, they’ll consume about half a pound of food scraps per day, producing fertilizer a lot faster than conventional composting methods and very little odor!
Once set up and well-established, all a wormery needs is the periodic addition of food like tea bags, banana skins, vegetable peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds, and dryer lint, and carbon-rich matter like cardboard, newspaper, and wood chips. Avoid adding onion skins, citrus, meat, dairy, and very spicy, heavily seasoned, or oily foods. More info on how to feed your worms can be found here.
Dedicated Garden Space
Lacking outdoor gardening space? Don’t worry, there are ways around this.
There’s a growing international movement to turn yards into gardens while learning more about how growing your own food can radically improve your home, community, and life. For more than twenty years small, self-organized groups of grassroots Food Not Lawns gardeners have been organizing local seed swaps, joining together for garden work parties, and making lots of friends. You can find a ton of get-started and how-to resources at FoodNotLawns.com, from how to grow a garden in a city to identifying wild edible plants, and more! They even have a specific section on the website for getting kids involved in garden design, planting, and maintenance.
If you don’t have space for an outdoor garden of your own, don’t worry. Satisfy the itch in your green thumb by looking for local community gardens near you here! The American Community Garden Association (ACGA) offers resources to benefit lives and neighborhoods through gardening initiatives, and works to share community gardening information, experience, and best practices.
When planting, take your local environment into account. Our founder Brice Jones and vineyard manager Kirk Lokka began approaching the Hallberg family in 1992 about buying their apple orchard to plant Pinot Noir. They had their eye on this land specifically because the cool, foggy climate of the Russian River Valley is ideal for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Like us, you’ll have an easier time raising your crops by looking at what plants will thrive where you live, as well as the best times to plant. No land is empty land; even deserts have native plants that know how to live efficiently in their environment.
Another page you can take from our book is grafting. At Emeritus we don’t graft often, but when we do decide to add new clones of Pinot Noir to our repertoire we use a process called chip budding to graft onto already established rootstock. You can do something similar at home by grafting fruit-bearing branches onto existing trees. It’s much easier to do this in your own yard than in an entire vineyard!
You can also regrow produce from food scraps, from basil to bok choy and pineapples to potatoes! For best results, start with organic produce as conventional are sometimes treated to prevent sprouting on grocery store shelves.
Support Local Farmers
Or, if gardening just isn’t your thing, support local farms by looking up farmers’ markets near you. The more we can buy from the farmers and ranchers near us rather than across the country, the fewer agricultural products need to be shipped. That means less fuel burned, less dependency on limited oil resources, and less vulnerability to food scarcity problems if something happens to the national supply chain.
For starters, check out local Food Cooperatives! Co-ops tailor themselves to community needs and concerns, aiming to provide quality foods at prices that are fair for both the shoppers and the producers. Agricultural and fishing co-ops often support their members by providing training, credit, and resources. Learn more about co-ops here.
A regular delivery of fresh vegetables, fruit, and sometimes even meat or dairy from a community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription might even help you trim your grocery bill. This system is great for farmers, who get a guaranteed source of income through CSA commitments as well as a direct connection with their customers. Search for nearby CSA programs at LocalHarvest.org and see if it might be a good fit for your lifestyle!
If you’re not able to commit to a CSA, or simply aren’t sure how to choose one, farmers’ markets and farm stands offer a snapshot of what to expect. Ask at your favorite booths if they have a CSA program. Also, if you have the freezer and fridge space, you can ask at your local farmers’ market, local butcher shop, or University extension office if farmers are selling meat in bulk.
Local farms often supply local restaurants. If you have the opportunity to eat out or order takeout, patronizing restaurants that source their ingredients within the nearby area you can support your community’s agriculture workers as well. For those with kids, pitch the idea of a CSA fundraiser in lieu of selling candy or wrapping paper. Here’s a guide for how to get started!
Donate & Spread the Word
Current and future generations of farmers out there can always use your support, and there are many ways to provide it. The first is awareness. You’ve read this post so far, and that’s a great start! The second is financial support. Consider donating to organizations whose mission is to look out for the interests of agricultural workers.
- Rodale Institute – funds research to support economically viable organic agriculture.
- ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture Program – helps farmers implement sustainable practices which utilize innovations in science and technology.
- National Young Farmers Coalition – representatives speak up for young farmers in local and national political arenas.
And do you know the third, and most powerful thing you can do is? SHARE all this information that you’ve just read. Tell your family, your friends, your coworkers. Kick off the conversation by making them a delicious, locally sourced meal, or even by sharing this post. However you do it, remember that ag workers have a vested interest in their community and put money back into the local economy too.
So spread the word, pass the serving dish, and have a great rest of your day!