Monday, May 10, 2010

Veggies for World Peace

A few years ago, while on a trip to Santa Fe New Mexico, a T-shirt spoke to me. No no, I swear I wasn’t partaking of the local mushrooms, and I never drink. What I mean was the slogan on the shirt read, “Renewable energy is homeland security.” I still have this shirt and despite being tattered, torn, and slightly stained, I still proudly wear it today for you see; the words on that shirt changed my life. Those simple words began a process that has evolved into what has become my life’s mission.

“It all makes such perfect sense,” I thought. If we start using the sun and the wind and the heat of the earth to produce electricity it will reduce our need for foreign oil and will also cut funding for terrorism, not to mention greatly reduce our carbon footprint. Of course, I wanted to jump right in and start a renewable energy business, but as I began to investigate I discovered that there were plenty of capable people running these businesses already and besides, I really didn’t have the necessary experience to wire a home or business for solar or wind power. Never-the-less, I continued to investigate different options and then I had a sudden flash…..why not couple vegetable gardening with renewable energy. It was the perfect vocation for me; my engineering background and my farm background merged together to ride a whole new wave of the Green Revolution.

I reasoned that with fuel prices rising, food prices would also go through the roof and it is already apparent that they are. Because of these rising prices, the cost of planting, harvesting, transporting, processing, and preserving food rises too. The answer then is to grow food locally, or even better, at home. Of course, most crops grown in a traditional garden are seasonal and I reckoned that eating is not seasonal; we need to do it all the time. So the solution then is to be able to grow the foods we eat all year long so they are available anytime we want them. If grandma can grow juicy tomatoes in the middle of a Minnesota winter, than I can grow them in the scorching Arizona Sun…..all year long, and so can anyone else. The answer to this is to grow them hydroponically.

Hydroponic gardening is a beautiful thing; there is no soil to deplete, optimum growing conditions can be maintained, crops mature quickly, and since there are no snowstorms or droughts in a hydroponic growth-chamber, and there are very few crop failures unless of course, the power goes out.. This is where my idea comes in. To have a successful hydroponic garden we must always have a dependable supply of electricity; the sun and the wind can provide just that. So now, with a good battery backup system, and a few solar panels or a small wind generator, we can have all the fresh veggies we want, all year long. Not only have we now guaranteed ourselves a steady food supply, we will have helped the environment and reduced our dependence on foreign oil. Not a bad trade-off for growing a few veggies.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Draw of the Earth

It’s funny how life can come full circle. I was raised on a farm and as a child and teen one of my many responsibilities was to tend the family vegetable garden. Other responsibilities included caring for our family’s swine herd, caring for our small apple orchard, and helping with the planting and harvesting of crops.

It was hard work and the days were long with little time for play. Of course it was difficult for me, as a child, to find joy in these activities when I would see the other children from my hometown idling away the summer days and enjoying the long break from school. I didn’t want to work, I wanted to play. So while I toiled away on those long summer days I plotted my escape. There was no way I was going to spend my adult years breaking my back to eek out a meager living and having little time to enjoy the fruits of my labor. And so in 1978, one week after high school graduation, I made my escape.

What I didn’t know at that moment was that the draw of the land is strong, in fact it is inescapable. Once you have dug in it, tilled it, and raised crops in it, it becomes part of who you are and will always draw you back. I eventually came to realize that what I thought was a curse during my youth was one of the greatest blessings I could ever receive. You see, I had great mentor living right next door. My grandmother was a master gardener, one of the best, and I had the privilege of being taught by her! My grandmother was once featured in an article in the local paper for the tomatoes she grew….in January…in Minnesota. Yep, that’s right; Grandma was an urban gardener even before it became a movement.

Well to make a long story short, by the time I reached my mid-twenties, all I could think about was getting back to the farm, and to the land I love. What I didn’t realize is that while I spent the next 30 years working in manufacturing, I was acquiring the skills necessary for what I am doing today which is developing products for the urban gardening movement that is growing as we speak. Never have the words “God has a plan” rang so true as they do today, and never have I been so happy, as to share what I know with you. You see, the land has hold of me, and I embrace it back.

It is my hope that through this blog and many other avenues, I can help other’s to learn what was so freely given to me. Until the next time, may God’s blessing be poured upon you. –Scott-