Dan Barber of Blue Hill wrote a wonderful op-ed piece for the New York Times this past weekend about the tomato blight spreading through the Northeast. Frighteningly enough, Barber reports: “weather alone doesn’t explain the early severity of the disease this year. We’ve had wet, cool summers in the past, but it’s never been this bad. Instead we have to look at two other factors: the origin of the tomato plants many of us cultivate, and the renewed interest in gardening.”
Barber goes on to discuss the effects of large retailers like Home Depot and Walmart who bought starter plants from industrial breeding operations and the importance of starting plants locally from seed (if possible). He also discusses the need for agricultural education with the surge of home-gardening throughout the country. All of us who have home gardens, myself included, must educate ourselves on how to prevent and detect plant infection so that diseases like blight don’t develop and spread. Lastly, Barber discusses the need for the food community to support sustainability and natural diversity.
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, where Barber buys his produce for his restaurants, offers a variety of gardening classes which teach all the theories he discusses in his article. I took one this past winter before I started my own vegetable garden, and encourage others to do the same.
Lovely photo from the Union Square Farmer’s Market by Lindsay Beyerstein from Flickr.