Farm Stands Open! Don’t Look Up, Kiss the Ground
Here on the east end of Long Island, NY, we are entering my favorite season of the year, which starts with asparagus, goes through vine-ripe tomatoes and on to pumpkins and apples – farm stand season. In other words, deliciously-ripe, packed with flavor and gloriously healthy local food. Our oyster stands are open too, and a new interactive map by the Long Island Oyster Growers Association helps you locate one of our 50+ coastal farmers.
The Farm Stand Pledge for Climate
Nutritionists all say buying fresh and local is better food, and better for you. It is also a climate solution – lower food miles. Why not take a climate pledge this farm stand season to buy local (nothing flown in!) and enjoy zero plastic packaging. If you want to be really climate-friendly, consider two more strategies. Seek out regeneratively-grown foods, like oysters, clams, grass-grazed meats, tree fruits, berries, nuts, even olive oil – foods that sequester carbon as they grow (think trees and perennial plants). Second, stretch your dollar by lowering your food waste. Make use of it all! Any scraps – get thee to your garden compost to enrich your garden soil (never to the landfill, releasing methane.)
Trending: Reducing Food Waste
There's a strong trend coming our way, food waste laws to meet climate goals. California has made the biggest effort, with an organic waste recycling law including tax credits to farmers for food bank donations. A dozen more states are now joining in with their own versions to minimize food waste.
For New Yorkers, maybe you’ve heard about REV2030 – which stands for Reforming the Energy Vision by 2030. The Empire state leads with mandating every town and city reach a 40% reduction in their CO2 emissions by 2030. Hmmm. That's only 100 months away. You know, we all have a role to play in meeting this societal goal – by lowering our fossil fuel consumption and electricity use, and yes, lowering our food waste. Food waste is the fastest and most impactful action we can take, a NYS DEC representative told me. Why? Because we produce a lot of it, on average .5 lbs per person per day, calculated to be over 220 lbs per person per year. Thrown “away” to rot in landfills it emits more greenhouse gas (GHG) than any other waste, decomposing, releasing methane, more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Wasting food contributes to 11% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Nationally, where does our food waste come from?
- 2% comes from food manufacturers.
- 16% comes from farms.
- 40% comes from restaurants and grocery stores.
- 43% comes from homes.
In our rural town of Southold on eastern Long Island we have a landfill and our Solid Waste Coordinator estimates 25-30% of the local waste stream is food waste. People like me, households, contribute substantially in making up that waste. I did the math. Southold’s 23,000 population produces 6 tons of food waste a day, equivalent to 12 Tons of CO2 daily. That’s a lot.
All that wasted food. Now that we know the facts, it's on us to waste less and use more, get a little thrifty, you know, waste-not-want-not. Any scraps that we do “throw away” divert instead to a compost operation. Let’s get all our solid waste operations thinking this way – thinking about diverting food waste to compost. Planning ahead is critical here on Long Island because in just 24 months, at the end of 2024, our Island’s landfills will close. By law. What happens then? All solid waste will be either incinerated or trucked off the island to open pit waste sites up to 350 miles away – at our increased expense and at a great loss to something many of us call green-gold, ie. compost.
Kiss the Ground
If you haven’t seen Woody Harrelson’s Tribeca Festival award-winning film yet, treat yourself. Upbeat, funny, rooted in science, it tells the story of soil, demonstrating how by regenerating the world’s soils using compost we can completely stabilize our climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant healthy food supplies. Soil enriched with green-gold, Woody argues, is the missing piece of the climate puzzle.
So don’t look up, kiss the ground.
Start Local Go Global
Getting smart about food waste, diverting and converting it to green-gold is really a national issue. As Woody points out: modern agriculture was not designed for the betterment of soil, and our US soils are nearly depleted of any microorganisms. Compost to the rescue. It’s an important remedy in a suite of soil-based carbon capture solutions, says Drawdown author Paul Hawken. He names some others: seaweed farming, oyster farming, managed grazing and silvopasture. “We know how to do it, and if we continue to scale over 30 years we can reverse global warming.” Folks, it’s not just farms. Scaling includes: garden composts, community composts, municipal composts, new business operations making compost.
Enriching local soils offers special benefits to all farming communities.
1) Compost is a soil enrichment with many studies documenting the nutritional benefits to food farming.
2) Applying compost on lawns, golf courses, parks reduces the need for chemical fertilizers which adversely affect our coastal waters and sole-source aquifer drinking water; (here on the east end we have 5x more land in lawn than farms, and nation-wide, lawns are the single largest irrigated single "crop", more than corn, wheat and fruit orchards combined),
3) Compost-enriched soils retain moisture, reducing stormwater runoff and flooding; an NRDC study found that a 1% increase in soil organic matter helps soil hold 20,000 gallons more water per acre,
4) Compost augments carbon sequestration at measurable levels, studies and farm demonstration projects you will find discussed in Kiss the Ground.
Make local global. What’s beneficial to our locality is beneficial nationally. Don’t we all want to be part of the life-affirming shift from damaging to health, from chemically-grown foods to nutrient-rich, from depleted soils to carbon-infused sinks, from degenerative to regenerative?
If so, let’s go. Start with your own shopping: farm stands first, love-food-hate-waste second, and compost, third. Dig it?