By Lia Jonsson

This week I’m going to stray just a bit from the normal format.

Lia-EWFB-8-1I haven’t been cooking much the past two weeks – and the demonstration systems haven’t been producing much – maybe it’s the heat. The “dog days” of summer call for cool salads and quick dinners, lots of rest and catching up on reading. One night this week we “dined” very happily on a homemade pizza composed of a little leftover chunky marinara sauce, a few chopped olives and sliced onions, some crumbled sausage and lots of grated cheese. It was a perfect casual dinner to go with an old television movie. Preparation was minimal and cleanup a breeze! A little fresh fruit for dessert. All good!

I have, however, been reading a lot this week – about agriculture, Aquaponics, water and sustainability.

Big Ag vs. Small Farms

TWP_20140722_003hese are exciting times: A study conducted by the University of Minnesota, and cited in a food economics article by Grace Communications Foundation, points out that industrial agriculture is frequently less efficient at producing food than are smaller, more sustainable farms. The study states:

“Despite decades of claims to the contrary, industrial farming has not relieved famine or hunger throughout the world. On the contrary, industrial agriculture has fed a culture of over-consumption, particularly in the United States, where large quantities of food are tossed in the trash while, at the same time, the population is in the throes of an obesity epidemic.”

Where does Aquaponics Fit?

Another interesting piece was published in Zocalo on Aug. 7, and detailed the growing U.S. dependence on imported fish and seafood. An alarming prospect, for many reasons. The article details what the future of fish farming could be, and speaks to the “importance of creating regional, sustainable food systems” as part of an “ecologically sound foodscape.”

Today, there are a number of innovative and alternative farming methods. Aquaponics is among the most exciting, the most sustainable, and the most adaptable of the lot. Aquaponics is totally natural and can be successfully utilized for commercial production as well as backyard farming on a large-scale or small, indoors or out. Green Phoenix Farms has demonstrated the viability of smaller family-sized growing systems as well as the potential of a soon-to-be-complete multi-component system under greenhouse cover in East Texas.

As more and more consumers “buy in” to the value and benefits of eating locally, returning to a more sustainable method of food production and delivery, the growth of farmers markets has been phenomenal throughout the nation, community-supported agriculture, gardening cooperatives and urban farming initiatives are healthy options for food, and many families now plant gardens. The future of personal farming and urban agriculture look bright. It does not seem to be just a passing fad.20140603_160148_Richtone(HDR)

Education Is Key

An important component of a sustainable future is education. We are always interested in local school efforts to plant gardens, to install Aquaponics systems, and to support curriculum changes that support an emphasis on sustainable food production and nutrition awareness. And we laud the efforts of local chefs and restaurateurs to create a farm-to-table sensibility that nourishes and supports local independent growers and fresh, seasonal foods, and a return to healthier, more nutritious meals and eating patterns.

One last bit of reading from the week bears mention: In Detroit, long a wasteland of urban crime and neglect, there is a renewal of sorts in the form of urban parks, green spaces and community gardens. The fruits and vegetables that are grown on them are good for the people, good for the landscape, and good for the economy. So good, in fact, that some commercial developers now envision “city farms.”

It all just makes me want to stand up and cheer. How about you?

Now that it’s September, though, I think I’ll get back to cooking. Coming up next week: A few great homemade salsas, along with an easy, delicious way to prepare fish, especially Tilapia.