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Everyone should be involved in agriculture

Sept. 17, 2012 |

By G. Michael Dobbs news@thereminder.com I really hadn't intended to buy the recent issue of "Mother Earth News" last week when my wife and I were on a day trip to Vermont. Perhaps it was a bit of nostalgia; perhaps it was just how I was raised. The magazine was a staple in my home when my family lived in Granby. My father always had an interest in agriculture and after he retired from 26 years in the Air Force, he slowly but surely started a small farm on the six acres he and my mom owned on Taylor Street. If he had two bibles they were "Organic Gardening" and "Mother Earth News." We had a large garden, fruit and berry trees, raised chickens for meat and eggs, and two cows – but we replaced them with goats for milk – and had steers and pigs. I quickly learned to appreciate the hard work of farming and that the hamburger on your plate had arrived there after a rather long journey. While I never minded milking a goat – they are so sweet – I hated dealing with cows. Picking vegetables was OK but plucking strawberries was backbreaking labor. I would wade into a raspberry brush gladly, though, as those berries were irresistible to me. Mucking out a barn didn't bother me, but baling hay was grueling. I also learned that if you had a commodity people wanted – we sold goat's milk – you could also make a little money on the side. With the issues of food security, nutrition and the looming problems of relying on genetically modified crops, I can't help but think that more people should be involved in some aspect of agriculture on a level that fits where they live. It was inevitable that a single issue of "Mother Earth News" would awake the sleeper cell lurking in my brain – I've got to cultivate. The 2011 tornado destroyed the venerable trees in my backyard that provided shade and kept our house cooler. The trade off is now I have an area in the backyard that receives enough sun to have a small garden. So my fall task, since I no longer have to rake leaves, is to prepare a garden plot. I'll dig it out, put some rotted manure on it along with some compost to strengthen the soil and turn it over for the winter. Come spring, I'll turn it over again and plant. As I look through my neighborhood there are several large plots of land owned by the city that are lying fallow. While it would be great to get them on the tax rolls through housing or business development, I think it's a shame not to put the property to use right now. Why not allow people to grow vegetables on these parcels for either themselves or to sell? Agriculture appears to be on the upswing in the Bay State, which is great news. While, according to the state's Department of Agricultural Resources, the Massachusetts is 47th in the nation for output due to its small size; it is in the top 10 in the country for farmers' markets and direct sales. The more land we have in production, the less we rely on food items from outside the region. It also improves accessibility to good food. While I don't need a plot of land besides what the tornado created for me, I hope that any municipality with unused parcels would consider making them available to people to create urban gardens. It only makes sense.
Sometimes there is a problem when two companies have similar names. The Republican reported last week that it will now be printing the weekly newspapers published by ReminderNews of Vernon, Conn. That company will closing down its own printing presses. Already I've fielded one e-mail from a reader about this story. Let me assure our readers that it's a different and separate company. We don't even have printing presses. And we're not planning to be printed by The Republican. Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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