Home Farm Experiment

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change at 11:40 am

I’ve long thought that using modern-day victory gardensto counter food shortages from abrupt climate change events or other crises, would run full-tilt into a wall of ignorance that just didn’t exist in the early 20th century. A courageous idiot from Brooklyn decided to prove my point. As he reported in New York Magazine, Manny Howard decided in March to build and live off a backyard farm for the month of August.

His experiment wasn’t completely in line with a real effort to stave off starvation in a crisis.  In a very small area (800 sq ft.) he decided against going vegan and elected to raise livestock in addition to his crops. He also invested significant time, money and effort in preparing his farm – including extensive drainage work and soil replacement.  While completely consistent with his goal of eating local produce, remaking the backyard probably wouldn’t be an option when everyone else is trying to do it too.

His problems ranged from livestock too old to produce, seedlings that died right before planting (can I relate to that one), to a tornado taking out part of his farm a week before he was scheduled to live off its produce.  These problems can be expected to be widespread if there is an emergency need for victory gardens.

Those adventurous souls willing to raise livestock will need to contend with suppliers being offered large amounts of money for breeders by people who have no idea what they are buying.  If you think shady sales don’t happen routinely now, you haven’t listened to children’s stories of how the hamster they bought at the pet shop died after a couple months from what the vet diagnosed as old age. (Old breeders are not retired to green pastures. Read Black Beauty.)

Nature wiping out significant portions of home vegetable plots is not at all unreasonable if abrupt climate change is behind the crises. Even neglecting to throw a sheet over a tender vegetable patch when there is an early frost can shorten the growing season needlessly for novice gardeners.

So why, when Manny was doing what I recommended (more or less), did I call him an idiot? In persuing his goal of self-sufficient dining he almost torpedoed his marriage.  In future I hope he enjoys the produce from his garden on a less intense basis and remembers to plant some flowers for his wife.

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