This week, we're dipping into the classics for just a little longer. The savory pies, empanadas and leaf rolls were October's menu darlings. Here we are in November; the last month of the farmer's market and harvest season. Humboldt County is iconic for the fruits of its harvest season. Our economy was once based in lumber and has shifted to cultivated produce. I've learned so much this year about what cultivation means: anthropocentricity.
I find that people often (falsely) assume (as most assumptions tend to be) that someone, with a botany degree, has a natural propensity for successful cultivation of plants. I dabble in growing food. My skills have come a long way but I have taken little time to learn the ins and outs of soil composition, watering, and seasonal timing (for planting, harvesting, etc.). This is, most likely, the reason why many of my tomatillos ripened before reaching maturity and my bush beans put out only a few flowers, thus, only a few fruits. Keeping a garden alive is, generally, easy. Creating a garden that produces fruits, leaves, and roots, in quantities and qualities suitable for the market, is another matter entirely. Most farmers and their workers eat/use 'seconds,' produce that isn't the perfect shape or flavor for earning revenue at market. 'Seconds' are terrific and interesting due to their uniqueness and can sometimes be found at the market for a discount. Each time a farmer shares their 'seconds' with me, I'm reminded of the extremity that is cultivation; the panic over inclement weather and radically shifting temperatures that render plants conducive to playing host to fungal and bacterial pathogens. Humans work tirelessly to ensure that their plants will survive the environment. This is true for the mom-and-pop ops that get in there with their hands and tend to individual plants as well as for industrial farms that rely on processing machinery, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and the like. We are all participating in cultivation (buying included).
Thus, from my point of view (a person with a botany degree, I see cultivation (any industry that brings forth produce) as *strictly anthropocentric, having to do with humans. Unless you are a forager for all of your nutrients, your diet is manufactured by humans. Lately, we have been turned on by the biologist's philosophy to reinterpret our food ways. Many farmers of Humboldt County earned biology degrees of some type and understand and incorporate ecological systems in their operations. It's easy to strike up a conversation at the farmer's market about inoculating soil with fungi in order to create a sustainable, live, soil system that acts like a wild soil system. Those who grow, rely on empirical findings to interpret their land and guide them toward insurance, in the form of 'natural' sustainability. Any time we model an artificial system based on our knowledge of Earth's natural systems we invoke the practice of biomimicry. Those farmers that practice biomimicry have more harmonious grow-scapes than do those who rely on older ideologies like mono-cropping. However, 'biomimicry', as 'natural' as it seems, still indicates our human influence. I find this food for thought an excellent thing to keep in mind when I contemplate the environmental and social implications of diet choice. Have we evolved to digest this or that? Evolutionarily speaking, intentional manufacture of food ways suggest a teleological perspective does it not? If yes, in that case, would it not be beneficial to orient our goals toward a sustainable future for food and consumption? If you don't live in an area bursting with ecologists, biologists, physicists, chemists, botanists (all branches of the natural sciences, generally, have a deep understanding of the connection of the micro- and macrocosms of the universe), then keep your ears perked for the scientist in your locality. Ask questions, the backbone of scientific inquiry. What do they think of mimicking natural systems to reshape industry? What do you think?
*There are non-human organisms that have been known to 'cultivate' in a similar way to humans.