So You Think You Know Agriculture?

Downey Garden image
Downey Garden

Growing up on and still helping with a family farm has kept me rather in touch with rural life. True, there are a whole bunch of trendy things going on which we’re not doing because they appear to be designed more for John Deere to sell unneeded equipment than to help a farmer’s bottom line. Honestly, the bottom end of the trend coming from the other direction has almost caught up to where we still are, so, we are both behind and ahead of the curve.

As a general public we hear about alums making huge donations to keep the steroid crowd knocking heads on the grid irons of America, but we don’t often hear about the donations which help the other departments. The image at the top of this post is one put out in a University of Illinois email of the Downey Garden. If you click the image it should take you to the page on the university’s Web site.

It might shock city dwellers reading this to find out this is also part of the College of Agriculture. This thing of beauty which is also a living classroom involves many different disciplines. What? You thought they had someone spend all day 100 feet in the air on a man lift shouting

Left! Left! Left! No! The other way!

No. Things like these are planned out using engineering tools. They are measured and mapped hundreds of times. Selection of every living thing placed within them is made keeping in mind the overall vision.

While there is a growing Farm to Table movement in America, far too many in this country believe food comes from a store. The store just magically produces it without the use of animals, labor or land. Oh come on. You’ve all heard of and probably seen the postcard about getting your food from a store where no animals were harmed. There are people in this country which actually believe that.

I had a conversation the other day with a tree cutter. He was asking about farming and made the comment he always tries to buy from roadside stands and farmers markets. He said

I don’t really care about organic whatever, it just tastes better.

I told him there is a reason for that. Much of the produce you find in the mega stores was picked green and ripens while in transit, usually inside of a shipping container, away from the sun. It didn’t get the last N days of being in the sun still getting whatever nutrients it needed from the plant/tree/vine. The stuff you are buying at those stands and markets got picked when it was ripe or just a scant few hours early.

Too many people living in cities don’t know where their food comes from. They also don’t know that massive perfect gardens like the one in the picture are also part of agriculture. For decades to come there will still be students learning about each item of vegetation within it while learning how to weed, prune and care for them all.

So much better than steroids and head banging don’t you think?

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