My parents grew a large vegetable garden every year. We were a family of seven and often would have a border or two in the house. The food from the garden was an important part of the family budget. The parents would do preserves and freeze the harvest. We had a root cellar where the potatoes, beets, carrots and cabbages would be kept cool enough to get us through most of the winter.
Every couple of years in the fall dad would have a local farmer come in with a load of manure from their farm and spread it around the garden. Then dad would take the rototiller out and turn the soil to bury the manure for the winter. Over the winter it would nourish the soil and then help to nourish the vegetables planted the following season.
They would also rotate where the vegetables were planted. Especially the potatoes and corn, they would be planted in a different part of the garden each year. Similar to how the farmer who plants the acres of fields surrounding my property grows a different crop in the field each year. Corn this year will likely be soy next year.
The care given to the soil is a recognition that we can’t just keep taking abundance from the soil. We need to give back, to nurture it’s health in return for it nurturing our health. Walk through a forest and observe the leaves or needles from the trees that fall to the ground during their yearly life cycles. Those are not waste from the trees, they are nurturing themselves and the young seedlings to follow as they rot into the ground.
When we rake up leaves off the lawn to ‘clean’ the yard each fall, we’re taking a nutrient source away. Giving the lawn a final cut after the leaves have fallen would mulch up the leaves and let them feed the soil over the coming winter.
The Dust Bowl Era
In 1937 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote in a letter to all state governors, “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself”. He wrote the letter to encourage their support of the Uniform Soil Conservation Law. The law was an effort to deal with the severe soil erosion and dust storms of the Dust Bowl era.
The 1930s are most closely associated with the Great Depression, the collapse of financial markets in 1929. The collapse created an economic misery for…