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A small local farm

37: Urban Farming with Sophia Buggs Transcript

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Chris: Hey listener. Editing Chris here. We interviewed the wonderful Sophia Buggs of Lady Buggs Farm over a Zoom call and the Zoom audio is just all the audio that we had available. It sounds like a Zoom call, but it’s a really good interview, so sit back, relax, stick with it and enjoy.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to discuss and this week we’re focusing on urban farming.

[Background music].

Hallie: This week we have Miss Sophia Buggs.

Sophia: Hello everybody. Thank you for having me.

Hallie: Do you want to introduce yourself and tell the folks a little bit about what you do?

Sophia: My name is Sophia Buggs.

I’m the owner and operator of Lady Buggs Farm that’s located on the South side of Youngstown, Ohio.

Chris: Hang on. Can I just say that is an amazing name for your farm? I love that.

Sophia: [Laughs] thank you. It’s one of the nicknames that people called me in my past, Lady Buggs, because my last name is Buggs and so I figured that would be an awesome time for me to fully admit that this is my purpose and this is what I’m doing as far as how my name is connected to nature and how much I love nature. Currently, I’m revamping my urban ag program to something more around plant medicine and something more specific on healing and helping people to regenerate their lives. I’m really basing it all on my own personal experiences of how I use urban agriculture to help me through a lot of challenging moments and times, but the positive piece to that is there’s more green space to expand in Youngstown and I love the fact that my farm is really located in a really big park. So not only am I working with really amazing soil, I’m also working with high dense nutrient soil that I can pretty much grow, whatever I want. I’m probably considered a specialty crop farmer because I grow a variety of flowers and herbs and produce from a myriad of different ways. Specialty crop is also a way for us in Ohio to describe smaller growers and I used to go to market, but there are many challenges to go on a market beyond just your achy knees and hips. There are some social context that goes into when you want to be at a market that is specifically in your area and other people come and they have the ideas of what they feel markets are.

I’m absolutely a farmer who has the capacity of going to a farmer’s market and selling a lot of produce, but I’m choosing to scale back, figure out my own purpose more so the whole reason why I actually got started and to focus more on the medicinals and the perennials.

Hallie: Amazing. Can you tell me a little bit more about how you became a farmer? I don’t know that story.

Sophia: My story in short is that I basically was laid off of both of my amazing jobs in Orlando, Florida. Teaching and one was also as a breastfeeding peer counselor working for Wicked Nutrition. When I was laid off of both of those jobs, I returned back to the town which I was born, which is Youngstown, Ohio, and discovered along the process that I had heard at my grandma’s home, the house that I was raised in, and this was after I lost my grandmother. I talk about this in my TED talk about my threes. My threes, where I lost my grandmother and I lost two of my amazing jobs. Those were all the things that spiraled me into my higher purpose, where I had to finally decide, am I going to give my own intellect, my own skill sets to chance? I’ve done a lot of different types of jobs. I’ve always gotten a gold sticker. I felt like I’ve always been a great worker in other places, but I never put that kind of effort in my own stuff. I thought, while you have an opportunity let’s work on what you love. I worked on my master’s and discovered that I really want to go deeper into natural medicine. I know if people know me and they’re watching this, I know they’re like I’ve always loved plants and I’ve always loved nature. That has been a known fact throughout my life. I don’t know why I didn’t get it, but I absolutely believe that I actually manifested a farm right behind my grandmother’s home that I inherited. One Katie pool at a time.

I just got adventurous and invested in myself a little bit more and learned some more about agriculture and decided to just jump in there and be a grower. I didn’t know urban agriculture was a thing. I didn’t know about victory gardens. I just knew that I garden because my grandmother gardened, I love plants because nature experiences were supported in my family and nature was always a place to restore me no matter what. Even if it was a flower on a magazine, it always restored me. I just wanted more of it because I felt like I was in a space where that was the only thing that understood me and I completely fell in love with it and moved forward, had a chance to talk with some folk from the city who worked with the land. At the time it was Learning Forward Ohio, who is now our current County land bank and struck up a partnership to start growing on 9 to 10 lots that literally sit directly behind my home. I’m fortunate that it just all happened. Kind of happening spiraled me into growing. Of course, when I decided to do that, taking a specialty crop apprenticing through OSU, which was the first introduction of my experience in what urban agriculture was. For me, it wasn’t a social context in the beginning. It may have been because it was helping myself, but then when I realized like, oh, this is profitable, I really dug in, like I wanted to do it.

Hallie: Yeah, what would you say to someone who asked you, who didn’t know, what is urban agriculture?

Sophia: Well, interesting that you bring that up. I didn’t mention too, that I’m also a partner on a couple of different organizations here. One is Healthy Community Partnership. I’m also the food access coordinator here in Mahoney.

Urban agriculture is described in a myriad of ways for a lot of places and I know I can’t speak globally, but for some, market gardening is just a side a lot. For some is urban ag where there’s profit community gardening. Urban ag has a myriad of things, not just community gardens or pocket parks or green space where people are doing projects, but these are also spaces where people are making an income off of farming. I’m so grateful now that the USDA has an urban ag program where they can assist. I wanted to say real growers, but real growers. When I say that, I guess what I’m talking about is people in spite of what’s going on in the world, still wake up and grow to feed themselves because we don’t understand how food has been used as a weapon in the past to cut through all the red tape of what that looks like. Still today, it’s a bit daunting and challenging. Pushing forward to me explaining what urban agriculture and what it means like now for me, it is absolutely saving my whole life. Urban ag is saving lives right now, because was there a place where you’re not judged and it’s always fair and you’re only utilized for exactly what you’re good for is nature. I live amongst city dwellers who have maybe forgotten the connection, the deeper interweaving with nature. Therefore, nature can be used as a weapon against people in city dwellings because they’re interested in paying bills, not necessarily restoring their bodies to having high quality lives, high quality foods. There’s a distraction happening in the world and specifically with people who are already over pleased, people who are already at a disadvantage. I see now people are like, okay, now I see why you got involved I think I want to too, but it’s so much happening that you have to be very careful and very patient and very loving with people who choose something that they assume that is so easy. Then they get out there and it’s like, wow, I’ve cried in my soil. I thought for sure this was the thing that broke me.

Chris: Wow.

Sophia: Who wants to say a rock broke you? Who wants to say your compact soil made you cry all day?

Hallie: Yeah.

Chris: [Laughs].

Sophia: For a woman who is not open about showing her vulnerability and who’s open about their tears, that is a real challenge because not only are you trying to grow to feed yourself, you’re realizing that all the soil is the same. Urban agriculture is a myriad of green things, green space, community gardens, side luck projects, urban farms, market gardens, pocket park in city dwellings.

Chris: That sounds amazing. In your particular case, how urban is it? Are you just outside the city limits or are you in a suburban neighborhood or next to an office building?

Sophia: Good question. I’m in a neighborhood and I am also just a street over from a major park, Mill Creek Park where there are tons of glaciers and it’s a beautiful park.

Chris: Okay. Oh, wow. I didn’t know Ohio had glaciers.

Sophia: Really? [Laughs].

Chris: I had no idea.

Sophia: Yeah, we got some glaciers.

Chris: Oh, that’s awesome.

Sophia: Most of our natural parks do have them because over a period of time that’s pretty much how our parks are parks. Because of the glaciers, I have high pH too, but I’d also get deer and rabbit. I’m not really worried about those. It’s the two legged creatures that I’m always concerned that might walk away with something.

[Laughter].

Hallie: This episode is going to be the first in a series that we’re doing, talking about local food. One of the things I’m really trying to discuss in this series is the way that local food can be used as a tool of community development. You mentioned earlier that concept of food being used as a weapon and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about how you’ve seen those two concepts throughout your career in specifically urban farming?

Sophia: Well, I will be honest to say that I haven’t read all of it, but I’ve read a little bit on Michelle Obama’s, Becoming, her book.

I had a chance to view a little bit of the video that she has on Netflix. I’m only bringing that up because that’s the first thing that I think of when I relate to another person who is trying to express what it is or how they’re trying to define specifically the work that they are doing. She had mentioned several times how challenging it was to take on a charge that she felt like really important and to be believed to supported as a black woman or as someone doing the work that she was doing and she absolutely did that move campaign, which I thought was so amazing. I loved how in her book, I don’t want to say grown in America. It highlighted how she had to push to have the White House kitchen garden. I mean, really?

[Laughter].

Chris: It’s for her house, right?

Sophia: That’s what I thought, but apparently it’s a national park, the White House grounds I must say on that level, and therefore you have to have certain clearance. She made sense when it was like, listen, there was a time where this house was not here or was torn out or damaged and you had to feed people. There was a garden to feed people. Make sense to lead that charge, but food as being a weapon is very similar to that experience that here we are shaking our finger at the first lady of the United States, who is absolutely saying that we have a hunger issue and it is not going to be solved overnight. We need to incorporate it into our lifestyle. This is how we’ve used food as a weapon is standing in the way of things like land ownership or overpricing produce or using in my opinion, language in areas that clearly deflates people.

I get that a lot of people mean well to say, “I want to teach about organic and permaculture and hipster language,” but many of the people are so far removed with these languages that it comes so overwhelming they don’t do it. As food is absolutely evolving and making people healthier, it is also being used to marginalize people. In doing that, I say, I know that there was a whole campaign where they were returning funds to farmers that weren’t given fair treatment when it came to resources and grants and support. Food as a weapon could simply mean something like you are standing in a way of another person’s best life by using a very essential tool that is needed to nurture them to say, “Oh, you can’t do that, Sophia. However, you’re supposed to know how to grow tomatoes. You should go and buy hydroponic tomatoes at the grocery store all year round.” We have to be careful and there are these, I don’t want to seem petty, but it’s ridiculous now. It’s now infiltrated into a whole system. I’m grateful that there is a food assistance program, but I don’t know if you’ve ever applied for food stamps before. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the conversations that they have with poor people, but they do not make people feel that they are proud to live in a first world country with food assistance. You have to darn there big and be sad and become broke, and scraping through the door for them to give you the maximum that you and your family do, in spite of it only needing to really be according to your household income. We still live in those times and you will be surprised at how even people who are discriminated against how food is a weapon are the same people that do it to you too, because they don’t know. It’s a whole of the process, but basically, how to make better with that is stay out of the way of people who are trying to be self-sufficient and sustainable when it comes to land based activities. I know I went off talking about Michelle, but I wanted to put that there only because I was so grateful, honestly, for another black woman in the world who has stressed that healthy eating and lifestyle is a part, not the total package.

But as a piece and a part of her family lifestyle, which is a challenge and it’s food for crying out loud. For her to share her wisdom to other young brown faces, other children, other people in the world on this is the way it should be done, which is children gardening. So when you grow up, maybe you could keep doing this for yourself. Just standing in a way of people’s opportunities to do it affordably, healthier. It’s sort of like breastfeeding. How do we promote breastfeeding? By doing it. By showing other women that this is safe. This is healthy. This is good. This is a nurturing and it’s free from your body. But if you’re stressed, somebody, something is blocking for your baby to get this nourishment because you’re so stressed out and your milk ducks are dried up early. Then you quit early because there are a lot of challenges. I would also like to see that kind of change in the world. I know we talked about food being a weapon from agricultural base but because I’m absolutely a breastfeeding supporter, I think that’s another way we stand in the way of using food as a weapon. Social service agency spaces who have to ask these thousands of questions to how she’s using her body or how she’s using her breasts. That’s typically short lived in a lot of urban areas because it’s just hard to keep up with the social demands of the world and still offer your baby a healthy supply of breast milk. That’s a whole another subject.

Hallie: No, but it’s still tied in for sure. I’d like to know a little bit more about what the local food ecosystem of Youngstown looks like. You mentioned you don’t go to markets. Are there a lot of other urban farmers? Was that an easy way for you to plug in? Was there a lot of support?

Sophia: Weren’t you going to ask all the great questions?

[Laughter].

Sophia: Yeah, there are other growers. There are not a lot of urban farmers, but I consider it an urban farmers’ because at some point there was at least five growers locally that was growing for profit.

Hallie: Oh, wow.

Sophia: This was not in light of what’s happening with the pandemic. Just over course of time, I’ve been growing for about a decade and I’ve also sold produce on my table for other growers who just didn’t make it to the market. I consider those farmers. There is a lot of synergy around local foods here and Healthy Community Partnership is an organization that I’m the healthy food access coordinator of Mahoney. We’re often meeting about how to dismantle what’s going on when it comes to food insecurity. Our challenges, I think is first, we need to change the language. I am one of a few that sit on the board, that’s a person of color. I know we are trying to diversify that and make it more inclusive, but that’s the truth of where we are. I’ve tried to make a parent to say, “Hey, listen, we need to shift the language in the way we’re having a conversation, not just about poor people, but about people of color and about food access.” Food deserts is one of those things that just makes me cringe for a whole lot of reasons. I will, again, state that, I didn’t know that this was a thing in the world. I was just in my own bubble. I just wanted to grow some food and be healthy. I didn’t know urban ag was this hip movement, but people were pushing against the powers that be in resistance. I didn’t know that. I experienced it and then fell into, why is this happening to me? Then I met people and it was like, oh, it’s a thing.

Being able to sit on the steering committee, in the action team and be the coordinator, I feel like I am capable to giving them the intel of what growers black people prefer to use when it comes to talking about agriculture. Food insecurity or food apartheid is more appropriate than food desert. We don’t need another check mark. That’s a negative word against the people. We just don’t. It doesn’t even make sense, but because that’s a great coin to get funding, it’s used.

Hallie: I have a lot of faith in the desert. I hate that term.

Chris: [Laughs].

Sophia: Thank you.

Chris: For those of you who are just listening right now, Hallie and I are just mostly nodding our heads a whole lot.

[Laughter].

Sophia: Thank you so much. It’s so much fun in the desert. It’s great.

Hallie: It’s another negative connotation about who we are as Americans. I really do feel that and our ignorance of our own geographical landscape.

Sophia: Yes, you’re absolutely right. The issue that I’m having is the language.

Now that in light of the pandemic, we know we need these brands, right? All the hard work that we’ve done to work towards to be more inclusive in our focus, I find that out of all of the Zoom meetings of all kind of organizations that I’m sitting in Mahoney, we’ve gone back to settle to the ways. When you’re stressed, in my opinion, I feel that you should absolutely have a practice. Whatever your practice is, you will always resort to it when you feel fearful. That’s why meditation is important. That’s why spirituality is important. That’s why gardening is important because although you don’t think it’s a spiritual practice, it is a practice and it’s safe. It is gentle and it is loving and it doesn’t harm other people. I’m saying that to say in light of what’s going on, I’m hearing the language now about those people, you people. Food desert, is slowly sneaking in. A language sets the tone for a lot of how movements can be that or for us to actually do what we’re saying we’re going to stop doing. Let’s start with the language shift. We had a shift, but now it’s shifted back and to be on calls and meetings and hear it, I just want to get off the call because I feel like all that I’ve worked so hard to say, don’t do that. It’s not appropriate. There are so many better words and terms that could be used. Oh, by the way, did you know that this is a catchphrase word that really is working against the people? Or working with a partner or organization that has saw the slow crawling process that I’ve had in urban agriculture being on the scene, be a part of the movement, trying to do the work only for it to just not be quick enough for them to just say, “Well, I’ll take the ideas and do it myself.” There’s an article I posted on my Lady Buggs Farm page. It’s a whole blog with this girl who just lets it go. I was like, oh my gosh, she sounds like me, which was, she’s always worked at really good nonprofit organizations. Many of the people are very intentional, but a lot of the work was not the right way of doing it.

So because we have a way with communicating or as they would may think, the token black people are comfortable with us approaching or confronting, like this is how we should do this in dealing with people like this. They don’t have to, but it’ll be done just enough to get the resources then off to the next project. There was a project that actually was needed to build on this project or we needed these resources to actually start up that. My concerns is that I live in this city with all this green space and there are a handful of organizations that are taking up some of the different projects whether it’s grass cutting, supporting gardeners, small farms, pop up markets. There are a handful of us that are really pushing that charge, which is really good, but my concerns is we aren’t moving quick enough. My concerns is that the language puts us in such a vulnerable place that a bigger organization can come and take over the green space this year. I know that blight is a problem for many people, but I wish I could stand on the porches of many of the boomers. What did they call that group of people?

Hallie: Yeah, the boomers.

Sophia: Say to them that it’s okay. That the weeds are Northeastern Ohio’s varieties that are growing into Finland, it’s okay. The air is cleaner. The pollinators are going to come and maybe we can get some ordinances so that you could have some wild flowers, but nature is not working against you. She’s working with you and it’s a blessing that we are in an incredible shrinking cities. I don’t want people to lose jobs, but sort of like COVID and I worked so hard to not say that name. It has forced us to simply go within and figure out who you are and how much more sweat equity did you have to give to somebody else. We have a chance to reboot. The air is cleaner. We’ve discovered new species of animals and plants now.

Hallie: What?

Sophia: We got roadways cleared and stuff fixed. We got a lot of stuff done and this is a blink. This isn’t even a blink in the universe. But my point is, and again, I don’t want to leave somebody without, I’m talking to someone in their own pain body experiences and discover nature the way I did it, which is I reached out to say, I don’t have anywhere else to go. One thing I know for sure is to be somebody that is always looking for a safe place. Nature has always provided that for me and it’s something that I’m hoping that Youngstownians can embrace the fact that we are turning into a greener city, let us be the change. Let us lead the way. With California not having water, we’ve got the Great Lakes. Ohio is the Heartland, but I do feel because certain circles I’m in with OSU and extension and in corporations and nonprofits, I hear that language, which is green space is only for an elite group of people and not you all. If we kick back then like, we don’t appreciate it, then we may lose these beautiful, vacant, green plush, lots of all kind of medicinal plants.

Hallie: I’ve got so many thoughts right now. I’m trying to process that.

[Laughter].

Chris: Right. I’m curious about the languages that you keep referring to. If there’s like one or two things that you just, oh, I just heard that again or if there’s like a tone you hear, or something like that, I would love to hear something that needs to be changed.

Sophia: Yeah, what needs to be changed is the way that we continue to build this great nation. We must do it with the acknowledgement of the natives and the people who are here and with food being essential. I hadn’t thought that was a light bulb for people. We’re frontline responders, regardless if there is a pandemic or not. I think we take for granted about food and even in my own house, I see it. I have a teenager who just graduated with a high school diploma and an associates.

Chris: Congratulations.

Sophia: Thank you. She’s pursuing to finish a degree at OSU as well, but I see in our own first world problems where I’m always checking her about making sure she’s not wasting food, making sure that we’re being mindful of the things that we’re putting in our body, in spite of us having a smaller budget than others. But food has always been my bigger stint. I think that’s because I come from a people where food was everything. It was our conversation. It was the comfort, it was the collaboration, it was all of those things. My grandmother’s kitchen provided I can explain. In such a tiny place in the world, she did so much for us. It is not that my grandmother wasn’t magical, she was, but what made it even more magical were the things inside that kitchen, which was food. I know some people fell hippity about calling food medicine, but I think when we do that, it makes us sound more important to people. It gets your attention. Like when I say food is medicine, people are like, “Wow, you know what? That’s nice.” But we would need doctors to also support that. Doctors don’t say food is medicine.

We’re fortunate here we have RX program where the doctors do prescription writing for people who are in challenged areas on certain foods to nourish them. That’s great, but it will really be nice too if those doctors do exactly what the RX prescription program was to.

Chris: [Laughs].

Sophia: It’s just one of those things like, “Oh, we should do this for the people. It’s your work and you do it.” The doctor is like, “What am I prescribing? Here’s the paper, fill this out.” Are these questions really being asked? Does the doctor really feel that food is medicine and that is the missing element from this diabetic woman or it is hypertension then or a personal mental health fog?” The truth of the matter is how I end up farming I didn’t say it, all of that is because I got tired of going to the powers of b and then talking to me like I didn’t know my own body. You really want to know what that feels like to be a mother and be a poor mother and go into an office where they tell you, you don’t know what’s best for your own baby. You don’t know what allergies your daughter has or how they respond to it. Just take these little vouchers and be glad somebody’s giving you food. I knew then, I wouldn’t be that. I did accept I did have WIC when Passion was a baby and I absolutely in my own struggle and my own sacrifice, didn’t do it because don’t tell me what my daughter is supposed to have or not. If you don’t help me here, you’re not going to help me, but that issue I want to say absolutely is one of the reasons why I’m farming because my daughter has so many allergies and I couldn’t afford it then so the whole foods was mine, pharmacy, but I was spending like $25, $30 on a calendula bottle which is little. I thought, man, there has to be an affordable way and there was for me to do it myself.

So that’s why I grow marigolds every year so I could submerge them into oil and let them sit for six weeks in a dark bottle in a cool place for my daughter to have a year round Sal for her eczema breakout.

Chris: I think it was in the last episode, Hallie, occasionally says that growing your own food is a radical act. I think that’s a perfect example of it right there. I’ve got this problem. I need to have my own solution. I don’t need any of these other people involved. I’m just going to do it myself and that’s really cool. I love that. How do you think that growing and eating locally impacts individuals and the people in the communities and the people around the communities?

Sophia: Well, I would like to talk about mental health because I know we want to go to the direct root cause, which is, it is absolutely healthier to do that and it’s healthier because you share the same space with the pollinators and all that other good stuff. You name all of the health factors that happen, that boost when you garden from movement of the body first of all. It’s such an educational experience. Cognitively, you’re always reaching to learn more. On top of that, the food is I feel higher in quality than what you get from the grocery store, because I think those are the other aspects we don’t talk about. Nature, which is the spiritual part of it. It’s something about the mystery that has also in these foods that is akin to where you live, but this is why they tell you to eat local honey, because you and those bees have a relationship. That’s what it is. You’re building your immune system for this relationship, which is bigger than what you assume it to be, but it’s still flowery and clean and protective for us. Eating local not only strengthens the economy, but it also puts competence in the people who live there. It’s food that they’re growing, not t-shirts. It’s food that they’re growing. It puts beautification in spaces.

It gives you confidence. It makes you stronger. It boosts your immune system and it’s always accessible and you have to learn every season, I do not eat all of what I could eat in Northeast Ohio because my taste buds primarily dislike what it likes. However, it also allows you to say, “Well, since I can’t get strawberries, maybe I’ll eat my last little bit of cherry tomatoes in my salad or since we’re all out of Swiss chard, maybe I can figure out what collards are doing since it’s later in the season.” Having a variety of greens to choose from. I love the fact that we’re just strengthening even the relationship with Mother Nature. I feel like it’s almost a checking where nature is like, who’s here? Who’s still with me? Who still supports me? You’re like, how are you? I am a garbage. I am a bucket. How many birds I have honeybees?

Hallie: [Laughs].

Sophia: I feel like it’s our way of saying we’re having a communal relationship that keeps us stronger and healthier as a team, as a globe as opposed to not being connected with her. I absolutely feel that we are the midwives also of what’s happening. She’s heating up for a reason.

Chris: [Laughs].

Sophia: It is not because something’s wrong with her. If we don’t get it together, we aren’t going to make it. She’s going to make it.

Chris: That’s true.

Sophia: She has proven she has survived freezes and heat up and you name it. This is a drop in the bucket for her. She will let us go and create a whole new people. It’s almost like this dance that is, I want to say require. Give her the respect. When I saw people still throwing their stuff out of the windows, in light of the pandemic, I thought people don’t get it. You’re still throwing trash out of the window, still? Don’t you know that that the harms nature? That’s the whole point of what’s going on. It’s not because they did it or you got it or you touched me, it’s because she can’t keep up with so much of the processing, the overproduction that we do for her, she can’t keep up so much because she’s doing what she can. This little rest that we’re getting, this little break is supposed to be her springing forward for us to be better. But I really do feel that those who want to hold onto old systems and old ways, she just doesn’t make room for them. I don’t have to be upset anymore. I have to be concerned if I’m going against. I do feel the love and support that nature has offered me. I’ve been more deeply connected than I’ve ever been before. I spend more outdoor times in my life now than I did before. I asked myself what stopped me before. With all the stresses in the world, all the distractions, I still write hobby farm for magazines. I still will go to Barnes & Noble and just go through all the books and just dream. I wouldn’t doubt that that dream is the manifestation that is happening now, but that’s a different experience with nature from a page as opposed to actually doing the work and even now, it’s the next level. Can I farm enjoy now instead of demanding it? Can I just wake up and go on my fields, plant something and heal some people without needing to dodge bullets, harmful words, ignorance? When this happened, I felt that fear pissed the people who are peppers and who are trying to be sufficient, try to get away from that. We try to just get in our own bubble to just survive. When I went to the grocery stores, I had to just leave. The craziness that people were bringing to the stores and bringing their fears.

It’s just you get your supplies and go, but people have other agendas when they’re doing what they’re doing. I was shocked, but I felt like we had scaled back a couple decades. When I went to the grocery store, the way people were treating me. I’m not saying I’m over that, but I do feel I’m over that. I get treated that way, oh my goodness. I know the masses are. My patience allows me to come home alive and safe and my spiritual practice stops me from wishing harmful things on other people. I always tell people, “You should leave me alone in nature.” Nature protects you from me because if I was here for a real human being, not in love with nature, not being this loving, it would have already been some mess from my life. Nature completely has saved me. I’ve watched to save other people. I hope that this is good medicine for the city dwellers to take in a little bit of greenness in your life, like a little bit here and there. A smoothie here and there. A wild leaf here and there. Maybe a potted plant that can be all year round on your porch and in the house, brought some things. They slowed me down and they stopped me from being so fearful from others and they expanded my vulnerability. Although I said, I don’t like to be vulnerable when I did that TED talk that was absolutely my vulnerability. That was a whole process too, by the way, to do a TED talk.

Hallie: [Laughs].

Sophia: One day, I’m going to do a video on what it’s like to be a TED recipient. To talk exactly about what you know specifically, and then find some pushback, even in the process of doing TED. That’s all I was going to say.

Hallie: Wow, I can imagine.

Chris: I can’t wait to see that.

Hallie: I want to thank you so much for your time and your knowledge. It’s been so awesome to have you on the show. Do you want to plug any social media or anything? Is there anything else you want to leave our listeners with?

Sophia: Sure. I want to absolutely want to thank you for taking the time to allow me to share my story and including me in this process, by the way, it takes a lot. It takes a lot from somebody to say, you know what? I’m going to scale back and allow someone else to take this platform because that doesn’t come easy for you all either. I’m definitely identified as a brown woman and people might not know that that’s where you two are doing, but when people hear that you are possibly supporting something that might not be favorable to them, there is no pushback. I commend you for jumping in there to also allow us to tell the real story about the ups and downs and the challenges and the lifestyle of someone who is in urban agriculture. My plugs are I’m on Instagram as Lady, L-A-D-Y, my last name, Buggs, B as in boy, U-G-G-S, Farm, F-A-R-M. I’m also on there as Mama Sophia’s Wisdom. I’m also with both of those names on Facebook and I’m also on Twitter as Lady Buggs Farm.

Chris: Wow. Awesome. Yeah, thank you so much for being here. This has been wonderful.

Hallie: It has totally been either. You’re amazing. You’re fantastic.

Sophia: Thank you. I’m glad you made the connection. Please stay in touch.

[Background music].

Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website, onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].

36: Vegetable Gardening Transcript

Listen to the full episode.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production and this week we’re talking about vegetable gardening.

[Background music].


Hallie: This week I wanted to talk about vegetable gardening. I have gotten many more requests in this spring than I ever have before from friends and acquaintances and family wanting advice on how to start a vegetable garden.

Chris: Gee, I wonder why that is.

Hallie: They’ve got time on their hands and vegetable gardening is super fun, so I thought we could spend a little bit of time talking about what makes a vegetable garden a vegetable garden, some of the history about it and some of my top tips, some of the success factors on how to vegetable garden. Dad, have you ever vegetable gardened?

Chris: You know my mom was a gardener, an avid gardener.

Hallie: I did hear that once you lawn mowed her artichokes. That’s kind of like vegetable gardening.

Chris: I mean she put it in the middle of the yard.

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: Two teenage me artichoke leaves look a lot like dandelion leaves, all right? I don’t know why anyone wants to plant an artichoke in their yard. Anyway, I do remember growing baby corn once and that was kind of fun. But for the most part, every time my mom tried to get me to help her in the garden, it just seemed like a whole lot of work that I didn’t want to do.

Hallie: Yes, it is work. It does take effort. That’s true.

Chris: Why do you want to put all that effort in?

Hallie: For fun and enjoyment.

Chris: Is it fun though? Is it really?

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: Okay. It does seem kind of peaceful.

You know your mom and I had a garden plot in the community garden once and we didn’t use it a lot but when we, did we did get some delicious food from it.

Hallie: Right. That’s a big benefit is the food is drastically better. I have a short list of the vegetables and fruits that are just a whole different thing if you get them garden fresh or farm fresh versus if you get them from the store like peaches, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes stuff like that where it’s drastically better.

Chris: It seems like some of it could be and some of the stuff I have had is that was one of the times where you would pick up the tomatoes and you would just eat the tomatoes like an apple and we thought you were crazy but you really liked tomatoes.

Hallie: They’re so good. Have you ever had a garden fresh strawberry?

Chris: Yeah, some little tiny ones that were pretty good.

Hallie: That stuff will blow your mind. It’s insane. It’s like the best food in the world.

Chris: Good stuff indeed. That’s what got Shepherd Book onto Serenity.

Hallie: True. Very true. Except I don’t know how garden fresh that strawberry was but still true.

Chris: Look everyone, she has trouble with the Star Trek and Star Wars reference.

But she remembers the Firefly references, so go me.

Hallie: [Laughs]. Dad, they were like nine episodes and stuff that I had to keep track.

Chris: 14.

Hallie: What I want to know and talk about first is when people started vegetable gardening.

Chris:
Isn’t that the dawn of agriculture?

Hallie: Yeah, that’s the hard thing. When you talk about histories of gardening and histories of agriculture, academically they get conflated a lot of as this is the same thing. Largely, they are. It’s all about people growing their own food. The difference from what I see in the distinction I’m going to draw for the purposes of this episode is agriculture is really more about growing food for a larger need for economic profit, whether that’s from specific profit or from trade, whereas a home garden is negligible economic impact. It’s typically just for home consumption. That’s kind of the distinction I am going to be drawing for this episode.

Chris: It’s food for fun, kind of like entertainment. Kind of like Benihana.

Hallie: Not necessarily really. You can have a vegetable garden to feed your family and we’re going to talk about that, but you’re not growing it to support yourself and to make money off of it basically.

Chris: Got it. All right.

Hallie: Again, people have been gardening for a long time on account of needing food. I can’t go into all of the histories of gardening throughout all of the world, so I’m going to talk specifically about the US and a lot of US history is informed by British history and British culture. We’re also going to be talking about the UK. This is a very white Western look at the history of gardening. But we don’t have infinite time on this episode. Maybe we can do more histories of gardening from other places in the world in other episodes.

Chris: I really look forward to that.

Hallie: A vegetable garden also called a vegetable patch or a kitchen garden or a potager.

Chris: A what? A potager?

Hallie: I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s pronounced. I’m going to be honest, I had not read that word in this context until researching for this episode, so I could be pronouncing it wrong.

Chris: I don’t feel like I’ve ever read that word and now I think it’s a great word that should be used more.

Hallie: Yeah, it’s a lovely, lovely little word if it’s pronounced potager.

It’s probably good if you pronounce it a different way too.

Chris: I don’t want a vegetable garden. I want to put a potager.

Hallie: Maybe it’s potager today.

Chris: Oh, well then I don’t want one of those.

Hallie: Or a potager.

Chris: Definitely not.

Hallie: [Laughs]. People have been gardening for a long time, but in the 1790s in the UK or I guess at that point just England after a war broke out with France, there was widespread food scarcity and so the allotment movement began. Here in the US we call them community gardens. In England they call them allotment. The government created land specifically for people to use as a vegetable garden in a community garden style. That was a branch from agricultural policy at the time in the 1790s. It wasn’t really seen as distinct from agricultural policy, although as allotment policy went on in the UK into the 1800s that was seen as a separate thing as food became more readily available and allotments became more of a recreational activity and not so much about food access.

Chris: It almost sounds like so many things come out of extension.

It almost feels like shades of that where like there’s this agricultural policy and like, oh, we need to get more people involved, so hey, let’s go create a little thing.

Hallie: There was not enough food. There was scarcity from the war and so they said, “Okay, well if we give people who don’t currently have access to land some area of land that they can farm, then they can grow their own food.” It was really built out of response to this specific policy and then from there it became a more popular thing and food access became less of an issue until it became more of a recreational policy.

Chris: Got it.

Hallie: It also became in the later 1800s in England much more something for the gentry to do. It became much more popular for the upper-class to have walled vegetable gardens or decorative vegetable gardens or kitchen gardens off of their manner or something like that. Not often something that they would tend to themselves. But Queen Victoria had a very large vegetable garden and it just became something that was more seen as a status symbol for people with land to be able to have garden fresh vegetables and that also trickled over to the US as well and that became more of a thing as US was taking influence from that England Victorian culture.

Chris: Did any of them have a secret garden?

Hallie: Probably. I think that book was written in the early 1900s, so it’s probably influenced by this walled garden movement.

Chris: Just about every piece of British literature that I’ve seen her read there’s a gardener involved somewhere somehow.

Hallie: Right. One thing that I’m not really including in this episode is the larger idea of a captive state and a landscape garden and topiary and mazes and things like that that were a bit a bigger influence in that land culture of the upper echelons of the Victorian England.

Chris: Got it. Okay.

Hallie: [Inaudible] specifically vegetable gardens, but gardens and keeping them generally was a huge thing.

Chris: In these fancy walled gardens and later in these I guess sort of recreational public gardens, what kind of vegetables did these people like to grow?

Hallie: Well, there was a lot of different things, a lot of stuff that we still grow today. Fruit trees were very popular. There is a technique of growing fruit trees where you basically prune them back to a wall so they’re kind of trimmed along a wall and that was very popular at the time with these walled gardens. But of course, potatoes and onions and a lot of the vegetables that we eat today, but there also were a lot of vegetables that we don’t know about today that were just lost whether they were regionally native. They’re from that area and now we don’t eat them.

They’re not in the cultural menu I guess of fruits and vegetables that are known or if they were just some specific cultivar variety that is no longer grown and so we don’t know about it. When I was doing research for this episode, there were a couple of examples of like here’s a weird kind of garlic that had its own name and was considered a separate vegetable. But it was grown then and now we don’t even know about it. We’ve never heard of this word before. We lost a lot of those really unique vegetables.

Chris: Oh, I don’t like losing food. That’s makes me sad.

Hallie: Luckily, there are some really cool botanical gardens that are doing great preservation work and if people wanted them, we can probably have a revitalization effort for some of these weirdo garlics out there.

Chris: Okay. It was in the UK and it was later also in the US.

Hallie: In 1902, the US had its first school garden which was in hell’s kitchen in New York. Another kind of different thing when considering vegetable gardening is that urban versus rural. For a lot of rural people throughout history, it’s been very common to have a small garden because maybe it’s harder to get into town, but between the 1910s and the 1930s here in the US we had the great migration where a lot of rural black folks moved up into urban cities up in the North to escape the Jim Crow South and they brought gardening with them and urban vegetable gardening became a part of that culture up in the North for many African American communities in these urban cities.

Later on in the early 1900s, we had World War 1 and food again became an issue both here in the US and in England, so we had things like victory gardens which were also called war gardens, which basically there was less food and so the government was creating propaganda to encourage people to garden so that food could be sent overseas to soldiers for soldiers rations.

Chris: Do you remember watching VeggieTales?

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: You remember the episode where they was vegetables fighting each other?

Hallie: That was a lot of the episodes, Dad. I feel like the premise of VeggieTales.

Chris: But they weren’t just arguing. It was like a whole battle. I don’t remember the whole thing.

Hallie: [Inaudible] episode.

Chris: Oh, that could be, but you’ve said war garden and it makes me think of that.

Hallie: Yes, that’s exactly what I want you to picture. Now, it was pretty much just like a community garden. Municipalities would put land aside for specifically community gardens for people to access so they could grow their own food.

In England, allotment land tripled which is like a lot. It’s huge. Then from there we went into the great depression and gardening again was a food access issue and from there, a few decades later, we had the World War II. Again, food access was an issue as food was once again scarce as we had this big warfare and so victory gardens researched from there. But after that, there was still gardens. There was not any state sponsored propaganda and lawn culture in suburbia here in the US became much more in Vogue and so you saw fewer gardens. It was just less common. Not that they disappeared entirely. Lots of people had vegetable gardens, but ever since the 2000s, it’s become a little bit more popular and we’ve seen a dramatic rise in home gardening and home food production as people think more about climate change and the environmental impact of their food and the ways that they eat.

Chris: What kind of food did they grow here? I imagined it’s mostly a lot of the same stuff like onions, potatoes, garlic, leafy greens.

Hallie: In which timeframe?

Chris: Well, you just went through half of the 20th century.

Hallie: I did.

Chris: Let’s cover that whole thing. I guess it’s all good staples that are relatively easy to grow.

Hallie: It’s very similar to what we were talking about earlier. We see a lot of the same things. We see a lot of good staples, but we did lose a lot of those specific varieties, what we call like heirloom varieties that were common and they were bred for specific regions or micro regions. Even you would have these heirloom varieties that would do really, really well in just this one part of Central Texas or just this one part of Northern Ohio or something like that.

Chris: Okay. Cool.

Hallie: We did see a loss in that. Beyond that, pretty much vegetables were popular depending on where you were geographically and what was culturally relevant to you. That definitely influenced how people grew and just what the gardeners preference are. That’s one of the hugest factors in how people garden is just what the gardeners want to eat.

Chris: Nowadays, obviously it’s not as much of a food access issue. Although I imagine for some people, maybe it is, but it sounds like it’s maybe getting a little bit more popular.

Hallie: Yeah, for sure and it’s much more of like an awareness issue. People are thinking about the nutrition content of their food. If you eat fresher foods, then it can have a higher nutrition and thinking about the carbon footprint of your food that you buy at the grocery store versus what you can buy at your house. I think that’s much more the focus of gardening we see now according to the National Gardening Survey, that 18 to 34 year olds account for 29% of all gardening households, which is huge. That’s a higher percentage than we saw in previous generations. I think young people are getting involved, they’re getting interested because they are aware.

Chris: Well, that’s awesome. Awareness is good. Awareness if you know your situation, what you need, where you are and what I’m aware of right now is that it’s time for a break.

Hallie: A break.

[Background music].

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: Welcome to the break. Listener, we would love it if you would take this podcast and while you’re discussing podcast with your podcast listening friends or your non podcast listening friends, tell them about this podcast. Say, “Hey friend, I love this podcast and I think you’ll love this too” because we think if you love this podcast, then they will also love this podcast. Spread it as you would spread seeds in your garden.

Hallie: Maybe you’re talking about what a superfood is. Maybe you’re talking about how to start a vegetable garden.

Chris: Maybe you’re talking about confusing Star Wars and Star Trek References.

Hallie: [Laughs]. We really, really love making this show and we’re trying to make it for the people who are also interested in these ideas and these conversations.

We would really appreciate it if you shared it out. We don’t pay for any advertising or anything for this show, and so word of mouth is really the only way that we’re growing and we would just love to have more people here who can contribute to the conversation and who can have fun with us here in this little podcast community that we’re trying to build.

Chris: Honestly, I hope we never pay for advertising.

Hallie: Who knows? I could totally see us getting a billboard. Let’s get a billboard along the highway.

Chris:
Oh, there you go.

Hallie: Do you want food? Do you eat food? Check out this podcast. Just a picture of me with like two thumbs up like, hey.

Chris: An extra shout out to our patron listeners, especially to our starfruit patrons, Lindsay, Vikram, Mama Casey, Patrick and Shianne.

Hallie: To our newest patron, Andrew, thank you so much for joining us.

Chris: Hello, Andrew. Welcome.

Andrew: Hello.

Hallie: We’re really thanking you for coming to join us over on the Patreon.


Chris: All right. Back to the episode.

[Background music].

Hallie: Dad, do you have a nature fact for us?

Chris: I do have a nature fact for you. Pollinators can pollinate vegetable gardens, can they not?

Hallie: They indeed can.

Chris: Common pollinator is the bee.

Hallie: Correct.

Chris: An animal that is frequently mentioned in conjunction with bees are birds. The word that has bird in it is Thunderbird and the Thunderbirds are who flew over my house today and it was awesome.

Hallie: [Laughs]. Very good.

Chris: It was cool. It was a nice little fly over San Antonio and Austin.

Hallie: Dad, real quick. For non-arrow minded friends, can you explain what a Thunderbird is?

Chris: Okay, so the Thunderbirds are a group of pilots in the air force that fly fighter jets for show basically. They are some of the best pilots in the air force and it’s a nice job after a long career of flying fighter jets and they do stunts and they do fly overs and they were doing a flyover of San Antonio in Austin in honor of healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic. There’s issues with the cost associated with this. Part of the reason the Thunderbirds exist for the air force and a similar group the Blue Angels for the Navy is for like recruiting and promotion and stuff like that, so whatever. Sure there’s a carbon footprint, but man, when a group of fighter jets fly over your house, it is awesome.

Hallie: Tara tarara nature fact.

Chris: I hope other people got to see them.

Hallie: They were extremely loud. Do you want to start a vegetable garden?

Chris: Oh, hold on there cowboy. I bet someone wants to start a vegetable garden. Sometimes I think about starting a vegetable garden.

Hallie: Well, think about it. For this exercise, we’re going to talk through what it takes.

Chris: Okay. Do I even have a spot where I could do a vegetable garden? I don’t know.

Hallie: You absolutely do.

Chris: Really?

Hallie: I know because mom has grown vegetables at your house.

Chris: Really?

Hallie: Yes, definitely.

Chris: Not that I’ve eaten. Maybe out there.

Hallie: Oh my gosh. She did that last year.

Chris: She listens to the podcast. I’m sure I’ll hear about this.

Hallie: I’m sure you will.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: The key factors in figuring out what you can grow in a vegetable garden are one temperature, the number of cold days, the number of super, super hot days that you get because you can’t really do a ton with that. You can if you want to build out some infrastructure and have like a little greenhouse or something like that, but that’s the key factor. Another key factor is how much sun that area gets. You can’t really do a lot if an area does not get a lot of sun. You could get some utility lamp but who wants to do that and also tons of energy. Then the third key factor is your preference. Those are like the three things that are kind of hard to address and change.

Chris: Are those in that order on purpose?

Hallie: No, not really. They’re all important. I would probably start with preference. I would probably start with what is it that you’re interested in growing and then thinking about how the temperature and the light situation in what you have affects what you can grow. You also do want to consider your soil. It is possible to grow without soil, right? If you’re in a container or something like that, you’re probably going to be amending your soil regardless. If you’re doing an in ground bed, you will need to be thinking about what my soil is, but you are going to be amending it. It is a factor but it’s possible to work around it. I mentioned in ground gardens, that’s basically where you put plants directly into the ground. You’re still going to be doing things like digging it up and amending the garden and tilling and stuff like that, but you have other types of gardens.

Chris: When you say amend the garden, do you mean adding compost, adding nitrogen or doing what those things?

Hallie: Yeah, pretty much adding compost mostly is what I mean.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: You want to amend your soil if you’re doing an in ground bed because it’s very helpful to have compost that’s adding microbial life and adding organic matter, which can increase your water holding capacity. You could also do a raised bed garden, so this is slightly up above the ground. You can, if you want, dig down into the ground. But one of the big benefits of having a raised bed is that you usually don’t have to till down into the dirt very far. You’re adding six inches an inch or six inches a foot, two feet to your garden bed and so you’re not having to do the work of digging it out. But that also means that you’re having to bring more dirt in and you’re having to bring in potting soil or garden door or whatever it is that you’re using in order to fill up this box. It can be a little bit more expensive.

Chris: Okay. You have to have the box or build the box in the first place, which sounds like even more work.

Hallie: I would say getting the dirt is harder. Building a box, you just go to Home Depot, you get four pieces of wood and you nail them together.

Chris: Four?

Hallie: One for each side. It’s a square.

Chris: You don’t need a piece of wood on the bottom?

Hallie: No, you don’t want a piece of wood on the bottom.

Chris: Oh, so you’re just building dirt up higher basically.

Hallie: Pretty much.

Chris: Okay, cool.

Hallie: You can also do container gardening, which is not open to the ground and it’s really helpful if you have a balcony or a deck or something like that where you want to just put something out but you don’t want to deal with the actual soil and do something larger or if you’re in an apartment and you don’t have a lot of space. It’s also helpful if you want to do something that your temperature of your region might not really be as accommodating too. Like I’ve done strawberries before in places where it might’ve been too hot to do strawberries, but I can just pull them in on like the really, really hot days and then put them back out later.

Chris: Because you’re a wizard.

Hallie: Because I did a pot and I can put it in a pot and then it’s all good.

Chris: Oh, okay. It’s like a potted plant. I thought I was going to ask if it was like hydroponics.

Hallie: No, just a potted plant.

Chris: You store soil. I’s just not the ground.

Hallie: It’s not really what we call soil. It’s what we call soilless media. That would be like potting soil, which is 100% organic matter. That’s like a pot mass or coconut core, which is the outside of the coconut or something like that. That’s like an alternative medium that doesn’t really have any minerals in it.

Chris: It’s called potting soil, but it’s not soil.

Hallie: It’s not. It’s soilless.

Chris: Okay. I feel like maybe we talked about this in our soil episode. But this is getting too deep in the weeds for me, so to speak.

Hallie: I think we did, but remember we talked about soil and most of it is just broken down rock. A potting plant doesn’t have any broken down rock. It just has broken down plants.

Chris: I see.

Hallie: It’s much lighter because it’s like just this light, fluffy carbon stuff, which is nice, so it’s really a lot easier to move. It’s cheaper. A lot of benefits to using potting soil. You can also do an indoor garden, which would be something like having container pots put inside or I’ve seen spice walls before where people have a little container by their kitchen if they have a window and you can just put all your little herbs and grow little herbs.

Chris: But you have to have a window with sun.

Hallie: Or buy a lamp from Home Depot or [inaudible] or wherever.

Chris: Okay. If it does the job. Sure.

Hallie: Another type is permaculture. This is a type of in ground planting where you’re planting directly in the ground, but the idea is that you’re planting it to be a more permanent landscape. Usually, it’s not in rows like a typical vegetable garden and typically you’re trying to build it out to be longer lasting. It typically includes fruit trees or fruit vines and the beds that you have typically don’t get tilled every year. It’s like a landscape as opposed to just a vegetable garden.

Chris: It’s like part of the decor almost.

Hallie: For sure. Another type of garden, the last one I’m going to talk about is a hoop house. This one is the most amount of infrastructure of any of the ones on my list. This one we did a lot when I was living in New Mexico because it gets really, really cold in New Mexico. You have a very, very short summer season, so it gets cold really quick and then it stays cold for a long time. Having a hoop house, which is basically what we did is we bought really long PVC pipes and then we put like steaks of rebar in the ground and then we would bend the PVC pipe in like a U shape over it. Then we would just do that like 10 times and then put a tarp over it, basically like a see-through plastic so that the light could get in. But basically it was much warmer inside of this little house that you built.

Chris: Now, just as an extra weird little piece of trivia for the people that know us, a hoop house has nothing to do with a hoopy house, nor is it where your username on Discord comes from.

Hallie: It is not where my username comes from. My internet username is Nat Hoopy, which is a Douglas Adams joke that is extremely obscure and I thought it was really clever at 15 for thinking of it.

Chris: For a 15 year old, it was pretty dang clever I got to say.

Hallie: Thank you very much.

Chris: I was impressed. You have all of these options. They all require sun and they all require water I’m guessing.

Hallie: Well, they don’t all require sun, right? There are famously a lot of people who grow plants indoors with no sun. You can just get a light bulb. You need some kind of UV radiation.

Chris: They get busted by the FDA. No, the DEA.

Hallie: You can deal with whatever you want. Cannabis is not the only thing that can grow with lamps. Plants just use sunlight for the photon energy to convert CO2 and water into starches and so they can get that energy from tons of stuff including just plain old lamps. If you want to get one that’s kind of higher voltage and you can find more information depending on what plant you’re growing, just so that it’s going to be giving off more light. LEDs are also really popular for this because they don’t get as hot, which can also damage a plant. But you can grow stuff inside without any sun.

Chris: All right. There are some alternatives, but there are no water alternatives.

Hallie: Correct. You have different options with irrigation. You have drip irrigation, which basically uses less water per amount of food. It’s like an efficiency question that’s very popular with a lot of people because water bills can get high if you’re watering a garden as well as people living in a house.

Chris: That makes sense. Got to water the people.

Hallie: You can also have some issues with drip irrigation just because you’re putting the water right at the base of the plant. If you have something like a root vegetable, then sometimes your root vegetables turn out looking kind of weird because they’re contorting themselves to grow directly where that water is as opposed to something like a sprinkler where all of the ground is getting saturated, so the taproot can just grow in the natural way. If that makes sense.

Chris: I feel like I’ve seen some funky looking carrots and maybe this is why.

Hallie: Well, there’s a lot of reasons to have funky looking carrots. Maybe there was a rock in the way and so it had to grow around a rock or something like that.

Chris: No, I have no idea.

Hallie: Maybe the dirt was super constricted and so it was just growing weird. There’s tons of reasons. Sprinklers are a good option for something like root vegetables if you want. They can also be a good option if you have a lovely ground cover. If you have a permaculture setup, you can just sprinkler it if it’s something that’s maybe not fully grown in and you’re trying to encourage it. Sprinklers are also often used for leafy vegetables because leafy vegetables can be super tender. Stuff like lettuce and arugala are prone to overheating, but they’re also like summer vegetables. Sprinting them with a bit of water during the day can help cool them off.

Chris: Oh, nice. Like a nice little mister on your skin.

Hallie: Exactly. People love it. Plants love it. It’s great. You can also have something called subsurface irrigation, which is pretty cool. I’ve used this in one form, which is called the olla, which is spelled O-L-L-A. It’s a Spanish word. An olla is basically like a terracotta pot that’s unglazed so it’s still permeable, right? There’s no hole at the bottom. It’s just a complete pot and so you bury it with just the top out of the soil and you fill it with water and then you cover the top. Because the clay is permeable, the soil matrix has a higher water potential than the pot of water and so the water moves out into the soil matrix. I’m pretty sure I got that correct. But I could be mixing it up.

Chris: You bury the pot on top of where you plant your seeds?

Hallie: Right next to it basically.

Chris: A little watering pot. That’s great.

Hallie: It’s like a little watering pot. It’s great. Usually, you’ll want to water your plants in for the first couple of weeks while they’re getting used to the olla because they don’t always know where it is and so it’s kind of off to the side and they have to kind of grow towards it to like pull the liquid out of it to pull the water through the pot. If I’m using an olla that I usually overhead irrigate for the first couple of weeks in addition to doing the olla occasionally just so they don’t get too wilted until they figure out where the olla is.

Chris: Nice.

Hallie: You can also do rainwater collection, which is great for drip irrigation. You can use it for olla and sprinklers and stuff too, but it’s really easy to use for drip irrigation because you just can use gravity because you’re not needing a lot of pressure to get the water out of the little drip emitters. I think that you just need to put your rainwater collection tank something like a foot and a half up above where the drip emitters are going to be then they just submit on their own. You don’t need any kind of pump or anything like that.

Chris: Nice. Even though presumably it just rained.

Hallie: You could just turn it off and catch the water and then in three days when it hadn’t just rained, then you could turn it on and use the tank.

Chris: Three days later after a rain you’d need to water again that soon.

Hallie: It depends on what you’re growing. You could keep its water in the tank. You can keep it for however long you want.

Chris: Fair enough. All right. Well, cool. Is that all about water?

Hallie: That’s my water stuff. The steps for actually planting you can either direct seed or you can transplant direct seeding where you put a seed in a pot or in the dirt or in a raised bed.

It’s going to be cheaper but it can be less likely that you actually get a plant because when you’re transplanting you see the plant, you know you have the plant. When you’re direct seeding, not all the seeds will grow.

Chris: That makes sense.

Hallie: It can also be hard if you have a shorter season. When I was in New Mexico, we would also often use transplants because you’re a month ahead. It takes like a month less to get the food at the end than if you’re direct seeding because you’d have to wait for it to grow from the seed versus just using the transplant.

Chris: Wait a little longer for that extra little germination to take place. Not germination but the little sprouting.

Hallie: You got it. [Laughs].

Chris: I got it.

Hallie: You have to think about your seed spacing and some other stuff, but usually the seed packet has a ton of very helpful information in terms of how deep to plant the seeds, how far apart to plant the seeds. All of that information should be on your seed packet. You can also opt for a transplant. If you opt for a transplant, it’s going to be more expensive, but you know that you have a plant for sure. If you’re doing a transplant, once you plant it, you’ll want to water it in. Just watering it so that it’s kind of nice. It’s like welcome to your new home little plant. Here’s some water for you. You’ll be happy here. You always want to do that right away. Otherwise the plant can just get really dried out and have a little bit of shock and it might not make it.

Chris: Make it feel at home.

Hallie: You can also grow your own transplants in your own house if you want. You can do this with little egg cartons. You can buy a plug trays, you can use whatever, but you can just put a little seed in a little bit of potting soil and you mist it once a day or twice a day, you put it near a sunny window or you get a light so that the little guys grow. Once they’re tall enough, then you want to start putting them out for a couple of hours each day increasingly. That’s just so that they get used to things like wind because otherwise if they’re inside and then you just plant them in the garden, then it’s really easy for their stems to break because they haven’t had to build up any extra cellulose to be sturdy or anything like that. That process is called hardening off. You just put them out gradually more each day and they just get stronger and stronger and then you’re ready to plant them.

Chris: Wow. I had no idea plants were so complicated like that.

Hallie: That’s all of the notes I took. Do you have any questions?

Chris: All right.

When I was a teenager, your grandmother made me dig holes for her tomatoes with a pickaxe because it was in Dripping Springs and there was limestone a few inches down and so I had to bust holes through the limestone. Was that actually necessary?

Hallie: She could have built a raised bed, but if she wanted to go in ground, yeah.

Chris: Oh, okay. She wasn’t just making me do work.

Hallie: No, out towards Dripping Springs there is a lot of limestone and there’s two inches of topsoil and then it just goes straight down to what we call parent material, which is rocks. What she was doing was because limestone is a softer rock, she was just carving it out so that she could add in compost and gardening soil and these other things as an amendment.

Chris: Just super quick, do people need to worry about pest mitigation?

Hallie: Everyone likes vegetables including pests so you will get them. It will very much depend on where you are in the world and what vegetables you’re growing. It might be something that you have to think about. If you’re growing indoor plants, it’s going to be less of an issue than if you growing outdoor plants. But everyone should at least do a cursory Google to see what are the biggest pest problems for gardeners in my area so you can kind of be prepared, but it’s all a learning experience and it’s all about figuring out what pests are in your area and what they look like.

Chris: I’ve got one last question. I’ve been saving this one for last specifically. I pretty sure this was you that I’ve either heard say or seen posts about it on social media, which is something along the lines of growing your own food is a radical act. Was that you that said it and if so, could you comment on that a little bit?

Hallie: I have definitely said that in the past. I think it is a radical act. I think that thinking about how our basic needs are so separated from how we actually operate in terms of like food and water and things like that that are really based and how they’re kind of built within capitalism and this corporate system that’s kind of really, really decentralized and includes so many players. We talked about this in the COVID episode that we uploaded, but thinking about how immense that system is and how fragile it can be and how much of a toll it takes on other people’s lives and on the environment and on animal welfare and all of these different factors, I think that regaining some of that autonomy and regaining your place in your own survival and considering the way that extracting yourself from that system, even in a small way, can alleviate a burden that’s being placed on the environment or on someone’s human rights or something like that, is for sure a radical act.

Chris: Wow. I never thought about all that. That is pretty heavy. You heard it here first folks. You want to be radical, grow your own food.

Hallie: You can grow a radical which is a part of a plant. [Laughs].

Chris: No.

Hallie: Really good. [Laughs].

[Background music].

Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].

35: Agritourism Transcript

Listen to the full episode.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad, and I don’t know anything about it. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to focus on and this week we’re talking about agritourism.

[Background music].


Hallie: Yes, agritourism. What do you know about agritourism, dad?

Chris: [Singing]. Let’s go visit a farm. Let’s go visit a farm. Let’s go visit a farm today.

Hallie: Is this a song you made up or one that exists outside in the global cannon?

Chris: Right off the cuff baby.

Hallie: Wow. Great work dad.

Chris: Thank you. It’s all those years of improv training paying off finally.

Hallie: TM. Nobody take dad’s cool farm song.

Chris: There you go. It’s just like going to a farm as a tourist. I think once your mom and I visited a dairy farm in the Netherlands and bought a lot of really good cheese and it was delicious.

Hallie: Did you? I did not know that.

Chris: We did. They made some really good Gouda there and we got some plain Gouda and some Gouda made with nettles and some Gouda made with garlic I think. They had a bunch of other stuff too.

Hallie: That sounds amazing. The definition for agritourism or an agritourism farm is a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment of visitors that generate supplemental income for the owner. That last piece is often where the impetus really comes from, which we’ll talk about here in a little bit, but this can include things like hunting, fishing, riding, festivals, classes, tastings. U-Pick is a really common one. We did that when I was a kid. You can stay on a farm. A lot of farms will do an Airbnb or something like that. There’s farms here in town that do like birthday parties or weddings and stuff like that.

Chris: But to your earlier point, this is not necessarily a primary source of income, but it’s something they can do for a little extra money.

Hallie: This is a functioning farm that is growing food of some kind or some other product.

 Then is also doing these tourism activities as a side hustle basically.

Chris: The great Corn Maze Craze.

Hallie: Exactly. This has actually been going on for a long time. Back in the 1890s, there started being guest ranches where people could come and stay on a ranch and feel like a cowboy.

Chris: It says here they gave people all the West feeling. In the 1890s, how far back do you have to go to actually be in the old West?

Hallie: Right. I think in the 1890s it was just like a West feeling and eventually that became old, but we still have that today. You can go and stay on a dude ranch in Wyoming and it’s pretty modern. It’s not like you’re dressing up in old timey clothes. You’re just getting that West feeling. That feeling of being out on a large ranch in a mountainous state.

Chris: It’s true. I stayed on a dude ranch as a kid in Colorado. It was a lot of fun. I think for them being the dude ranch was their primary source of income, but it was still a cool place to be.

Hallie: This became a lot more popular after World War I. People started having cars, we got highways. People could drive a lot easier out to rural places. It became a really big thing in Italy and it still is a really big thing in Italy as Italian farmers kind of left the countryside as it became harder to farm and make that viable. The idea of the idyllic Italian countryside grew and the tourism grew alongside that.

That tourism part is a really significant part in Italy and other parts of the world. It’s very geographically dependent based a lot around the narrative and the cultural idea of an area. Napa is another good example of an area where that tourism part is a really huge part sometimes more so than the agro part of the portmanteau.

Chris: Who wouldn’t want to spend a few nights in the Italian countryside? That sounds pretty great.

Hallie: Totally. There is an estimate that there are between 9 and 20,000 agritourism farms and ranches in Italy. The US current estimates only put it at 10,000. Italy is a much smaller country than the US and they have a lot of these agritourism farms and ranches.

Chris: Let’s see. Am I going to stay on a farm in the Italian countryside or on a farm in West Texas? That’s pretty beautiful right there.

Hallie: I stayed on a farm. It wasn’t really a farm. I stayed on someone’s land one time in West Texas and I got it wasn’t really attacked. We got herded by some javelinas. Did I tell you that?

Chris: Oh boy. No, that sounds terrifying.

Hallie: It was weird. We were inside of a tent, but they just started running around our tent in the nighttime. It was extremely strange.

Chris: You didn’t have 30 to 50 of them on your front lawn that you had to shoot?

Hallie: No.

Chris: Does anyone remember that reference by this point? I don’t know, anyway.

Hallie: I remember that meme. I love the javelina meme. There should be more javelina memes.

Chris: Indeed. Javelina don’t get enough love.

Hallie: Agreed. We’ve mentioned corn mazes, we’ve mentioned ranch stays and farm stays. You also have U-Picks, which is basically where you travel out to a farm and you hand harvest your own food. I’ve done this with strawberries and peaches in the past. Would 100% recommend doing it for peaches. Those were some of the best peaches I’ve ever had in my life. Incredible.

Chris: That does sound pretty delicious. Where did you do the peaches? Was that out in Fredericksburg?

Hallie: That was in California actually.

Chris: Oh, nice.

Hallie: Real California peaches. We talked about wine tasting.

You can find that in the US in a lot of different regions. That particularly is becoming a really attractive way to differentiate your market. There’s the development of the Vermont wine scene and the Texas wine scene is becoming a thing. Wine tasting is becoming a much bigger thing in agritourism in the US. You also have things like hayrides, corn mazes. I one time worked on an agritourism farm and we had a petting zoo and we had hayrides and a corn maze or a hay maze technically and I was in charge of the pony rides. Let me tell you, I did not enjoy that.

Chris: Did you ever get lost in the hay maze?

Hallie: I didn’t. We did have to sometimes go in and find people who had a hard time getting out.

Chris: Right.

Hallie: But I just can never assert my dominance over this pony, so she would step on my feet all the time. It was a real pain.

Chris: Pony didn’t like you.

Hallie: Ponies don’t like anyone. Ponies are not nice.

Chris: You know when you were growing up, we had a neighbor that had a pony and it seemed perfectly affable.

Hallie: We had a neighbor who had a pony? What? We had a pony.

Chris: No, they were out walking down the street one day.

Hallie: Down the street?

Chris: Yeah, I think we didn’t know him real well. I think they were like rich jerks, but they had a pony. Pony seemed fine.

Hallie: What? Dad, we lived in the city. What are you telling?

Chris: Correct.

Hallie: There was a pony down the street. In the suburban neighborhood in which we lived, we had a neighbor down the street who had a pony at their house?

Chris: You’re understanding me fully. That is what I said.

Hallie: I do not think I am. I don’t think I’m understanding anything fully.

Chris: That is that.

Hallie: There was a pony out at the ranch that your mum had and that was not a nice pony.

Chris: Really?

Hallie: Yes, she was a bit of a jerk.

Chris: Snuffy?

Hallie: No, Snuffy was the horse. Melody was the pony. I’m taking my stance. I’m saying ponies as jokes. If you have a great pony, please send us cute pony pictures.

Chris: There you go. Animals got animal. Can’t control the animals.

Hallie: Animals aren’t got animal. The other big agritourism thing that we haven’t really talked about is WWOOFing. Do you know about WWOOFing?

Chris: I’m almost afraid to ask. Obviously, it’s a thing that dogs do. They go woof, but I’m guessing that’s not what this is.

Hallie: Take a stab in the dark.

Chris: WWOOFing, is it going outside at night and howling at the moon or is it like cow tipping?

Hallie: I wish. That would be great. What was the second thing you said?

Chris: Or is it like cow tipping?

Hallie: It’s not cow tipping. Cow tipping is not a thing.

Chris: Is it throwing cow pats at each other?

Hallie: That’s another great guess. Now, WWOOFing is WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms. That is the WWOOF. Basically, it’s a community where you can get connected to go volunteer on a farm somewhere in the world. I have met so many people who that’s how they got into the agriculture sector, particularly in like the regenerative, sustainable agriculture area in which I live. That’s how a lot of people find their way into ag is by WWOOFing. It’s a weird word.

Chris: Do you get to whitewash their fence for them too?

Hallie: Yeah, go ahead.

Chris: I guess if that’s what you really want to do, then go for it. I hear that and I think, oh boy, it’s a way for farms to get free labor, but if somebody really wants to go do that, go make yourself happy.

Hallie: It is definitely a way for farms to get free labor, no beans about it. You can WWOOF anywhere in the world. I know people who’ve WWOOFed here in the US. I know people who’ve WWOOFed in South America, in Africa, in Europe. You can WWOOF on urban farms. Oftentimes you’re WWOOFing on rural farms. Part of the appeal for folks doing it with WWOOFing sometimes it’s like, oh, I wonder about farming. Maybe you’re down the homesteading path or the hippie path and you’re like, I wonder what it would be like to run a small farm or to grow my own food so you can go and voyage into someone’s life and get a little bit of experience of what it actually is like to do that work. Sometimes people just want to get away from it all and go connect with the land.

Chris: Absolutely.

Hallie: A lot of people do it right out of college. It’s a really inexpensive way to travel because if you’re staying on a farm, then you could take the weekend off or take a couple days off and then just go travel around and you’re not usually paying any money back to the farm. You’re providing a little bit of labor. If you’re young, dumb, and full of great ambitions to see the big wide world having meals and room and board in exchange for labor, can be appealing to some folks. That’s the WWOOFing situation.

Chris: All right. Cool.

Hallie: I mentioned there like 10,000ish farms that are doing this.

It’s kind of a weird number to calculate because in most States you don’t really have to register your agritourism business. Some places you do, but not all. The number one reason that’s listed by people going to these agritourism spots is to see the rural scenery. Number two is learning more about where their food comes from. We love to see that.

Chris: That’s got to be a great education for some people as we know.

Hallie: For sure. Currently, agritourism is valued at $7.45 billion globally.

Chris: That’s a bigger pie than I would have thought.

Hallie: I know. Honestly, me too. It is expected to continue to grow. Catherine, our producer found this really interesting case study that was for the Carlsbad Flower Fields in San Diego County, Southern California. Do you know about these Flower Fields?

Chris: No, I’ve heard of Carlsbad Caverns, but I don’t think those are in California, are they?

Hallie: No, this is different. It’s similar to if you’ve seen the landscapes of tulips in the Netherlands where it’s just these fields of flowers that are just endless.

Chris: I’ve been there and they are beautiful.

Hallie: To the Netherlands, not to Carlsbad. To clarify.

Chris: Correct. I’ve seen the tulips and the tulips were amazing.

Hallie: Well, if you liked that, you can head to Southern California see some more. Catherine found this case study from UC Davis that found that these flower fields brought in $600,000 in additional revenue and because of that, over $2 million in direct spending in the Carlsbad area was also generated. It’s great for capitalism bringing in dollars to the local economy and all that.

Chris: That sounds amazing. It’s great business for the farm that needs more money and it’s a great benefit to the local economy in total.

Hallie: For sure yeah. For farms, sometimes you can have more of an issue with liability, especially depending on what services you’re offering. If it’s just like a U-Pick and people are coming out for like two hours, then it’s less than if they book the whole farm out for a wedding or a birthday party or they’re Airbnbing somewhere where you have a little bit more of a duty of care, so you can have some liability issues. But there are no national laws regulating agritourism or anything like that. Some States do have laws like having people register. I think there are some States where you have to be a little bit more diligent. In Texas, you just have to put a sign up saying you are acknowledging risk because this is a working farm and the farmer is exempt from all liability resulting from being here. It can complicate zoning codes and stuff like that, but generally, legally there’s not a lot of regulation.

Chris: There’s no accounting for being herded by javelinas.

Hallie: Exactly.

Chris: I would imagine this has an impact on local traffic as well.

Hallie: It can, but if you’re in a rural area, there’s not a lot of traffic to begin with. I think parking is more often the question, but maybe if you have a big wedding party or something like that. You’ve got people coming out. Well, speaking of parties, should we go to a party in the break?

Chris: Yeah, let’s go party in the break.

[Background music].

Chris: Welcome to the break.

Hallie: Dad, did you know that we had two fabulous groups that light up my life?

Chris: Two amazing, wonderful Wildflower sharing groups.

Hallie: If you want to get in on this great flower/food/friendship action, you can go to onetogrowonpod.com/discord or onetogrowonpod.com/group. Or for the Facebook group, you can search One to Grow On on the Facebook searcher and you can find our group that way.

Chris: Which is One to Grow On Pod, friends for flowers, food and friendship. I don’t know. There’s lots of good chatter on the Discord and the group.

Hallie: Excellent chatter, Primo chatter. The Discord group is my favorite push notification to ever get on my phone.

Chris: That is a lot of fun.

Hallie: You can go to onetogrowonpod.com/discord or onetogrowonpod.com/group to join us there.

Chris: Thank you so much to our starfruit patrons, Vikram, Lindsay, Mama Casey, Patrick and Shianne.

Hallie: Thank you guys so much for your wonderfulness generally.

Chris: For helping us keep our lights on.

Hallie: You guys are amazing and we really appreciate all the support. Should we get back to the episode?

[Background music].

Hallie: Dad, you got a nature fact for us?

Chris: I do. You’re talking about corn mazes earlier. Corn mazes are of course made of fields of corn.

Hallie: True.

Chris: A field of corn was featured in the movie, Children of the Corn by Stephen King. In the original theatrical trailer, Stephen King’s name is spelled Stephen with a PH, but in the original theatrical trailer, it is spelled as Steven with a V and I just thought that was funny.

Hallie: It’s PH. Is that right?

Chris: It’s PH, not V.

Hallie: I have never, I think read or seen any Stephen King thing, like media item.

Chris: I saw Stand by Me and I thought it was a pretty good movie.

Hallie: That’s Stephen King?

Chris: Yeah, it’s a Stephen King.

Hallie: But I thought Stephen King did horror movies. Wasn’t that a children’s movie?

Chris: It’s definitely not a children’s movie, but it’s also not a horror movie. It’s a pretty good. I would say coming of age movie that has some dark elements, nothing horror like, but it’s based on a book he wrote called The Body and it was a breakout movie for Wil Wheaton who later ruined his career by joining Star Trek: The Next Generation. But it’s a good movie. You should check it out. I’ve seen some other of his movies. Like I saw Maximum Overdrive and I don’t really remember it. I guess it was dumb or whatever. I think I saw some scenes from Cujo which terrified me. That’s everything I remember.

Hallie: Interesting stuff.

Chris: Not really, but we had fun with it.

Hallie: I feel like there’s a lot of corn in movies. I feel like more than any other crop, it really captures the imagination. I don’t know why.

Chris: It’s the American landscape, right? You see it in Children of the Corn, Field of Dreams, all kinds of other stuff. You’re driving down the highway in some open flat land and there are these rows of corn and you sort of look out the window and you see the rows going by really fast and you can kind of see the row of corn and you see down between the rows of corn and you see the corn in between the rows of corn really fast. It’s just this iconic ubiquitous thing for anyone that’s ever driven through any agricultural part of America, I think.

Hallie: I guess that’s true. I never really thought about that because of course, you have fields of alfalfa and fields of hay and fields of soybeans, but I think you’re right. It’s that weird whipping visual of the corn just speeding by that you don’t get with those other crops. It’s tall enough that you can’t really see what’s in there, but you can also see enough. With a hay field, you can’t really see in there at all. It’s just dense, but with the corn, you can kind of see enough but not see everything. Maybe that’s why you really think about it.

Chris: I think it whips up these sort of romantic ideas of this world that most people have no idea about.

Hallie: Bringing that back to agritourism, that’s a lot of what agritourism is about. It’s about that nostalgia and romanticism and for good reasons, I could definitely see myself after being in my house for two months and being a little bit afraid and having these existential feelings being I just want to go sit on a farm, go get a rocking chair and not think about anything and pretend that I’m just out in the wilderness surveying my fields, even though I don’t actually want to become a farmer because that’s immensely challenging and I’m not interested in that, but I could totally see myself just going to sit on a farm and not do work.

Chris: Oh man, that would be so nice right now.

Hallie: Doesn’t that sound great?

Chris: It sounds great. Get a hammock under a shade tree. Hear the wind blowing through the fields. Perfect.

Hallie: You watch the chickens walk by or whatever.

Chris: I don’t need chickens in my peaceful [inaudible].

Hallie: This is one area where I feel a little bit less connected to the general perspective. I like living in small towns. I like being in rural places and I know that there are a lot of people who don’t like that at all. I’m in the city because this is where my job is and this is where my family is not because it is where I would choose. If I could choose anywhere in the world, I would probably be in the wilds of some back country somewhere just sitting on a farm with the little chickens and chilling out. I kind of wonder what that experience is like for people who have this idea of it and then they actually go and experience it and I think that that’s so dependent on how able farms are to get into the heads of these city people. Actually, I went to a conference in January and there was a whole thing on agritourism and that’s what they talked to the farmers a lot about is you have to be able to think an urban person to anticipate what they will be expecting and what they will need to make themselves feel comfortable, which is so interesting.

Chris: That is interesting. That makes me think of European hotels and stuff trying to build out fixtures and accommodations to accommodate American tourists because they have different expectations and I guess different environment but sort of similar way of thinking.

Hallie: An ice machine.

Chris: Or private bathrooms.

Hallie: Right. No, very true. I guess just wrapping it up. Currently, more than half of all farm households in the US have a negative farm income, so that comes back to why do farms do this? It’s not always because they want pedestrians underfoot getting in their way, but it’s often because it can really bring in a lot of money that can help support the real work that they’re doing. Sometimes it’s a very seasonal job, so having something in an off season can be helpful, particularly if you have like an orchard where you still have some scenery for people to look at, but there’s nothing really to do for a month or two, then that’s a really easy sell for a lot of farmers. A lot of people also like to do it to promote the sector. I think that there’s a pretty clear line you can draw between the rise in agritourism and the rise in people caring about things like local food and regenerative food, food that’s been sustainably grown. Having that connection and having this romantical idea of what a farm is and needing to preserve that farmland and something being pure or clean, I think that you can draw that connection from this new thought of, hey, we can market directly to people so much that they will want to come and stay on my dirty old farm to you getting these premiums from organic and local and stuff like that.

Chris: Indeed. That boggles my mind when you say that more than half of all farm households have a negative income. Wow. I guess you got to find a way to innovate and stay afloat.

Hallie: We’ve talked a lot about the economics of farming on this show.

It doesn’t really make a lot of sense. A lot of farmers have off farm jobs. This one I don’t know if it’s counted as an off farm job. I think it would still be counted as an off farm job. But you have a lot of people who do part time work in the city or have an online job that they can do in the evenings after they’re done. You have a lot of people who need assistance from the government. It is not great paying work to do farming for the most part. Agritourism is a big part of that.

Chris: Okay. Well, dang. I’ve never actually done a corn or hay maze. At least not that I remember. If I go do one sometime you come help me not get lost, all right?

Hallie: I would love that. I love a good maze. I love a good visit out to a farm. Let’s go get some cider or other hot beverage next fall when the world is safe again and we can explore a hay maze.

Chris: Or at least the illusion of safety, right? Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].

34: Super Foods V Transcript

Listen to the full audio.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to discuss and this week it’s superfoods number five.


[Background music].


Chris: Okay, but will we be able to use the confirming it’s a superfood song. Let’s find out.

Hallie: All right. Superfoods. I am so excited to do another superfood episode today.

Chris: Looking at this list, there is definitely one food on here that I enjoy eating and I really hope it’s a superfood.  

Hallie: Oh, okay.

Chris: I bet it’s probably not, but I hope it is.

Hallie: We’ll find out. Should we kick off with our first food? 

Chris: Let’s kick off with our first food, which is wheatgrass.

Hallie: What do you know about wheatgrass? 

Chris: Well, I know it’s a grass. 

Hallie: Cool. 

Chris: I know it has the word wheat in it, but I don’t know if it’s actually wheat. I guess I assume that maybe it’s wheat. I don’t know. Is it part of wheat? Who could tell me? I bet you could tell me, and I know it’s an expensive add on in smoothie joints. 

Hallie: Yes, it is in smoothies sometimes. 

Chris: It’s green. 

Hallie: You are not wrong about that. 

Chris: All right.

Hallie: Wheatgrass is the grass of wheat. It is the leaves of Triticum aestivum, which is wheat.

Chris: Wait a minute. It’s the leaves? I thought it was the stocks. 

Hallie: It’s the leaves.

Chris: Wow. Okay, so I’ve already learned something new. 

Hallie: Wheatgrass, you can get it fresh, which is often what you see at smoothie joints. You can also get it freeze dried, which is often also incorporated into drinks as well. Wheatgrass was actually made popular by a woman named Ann Wigmore who apparently lived in Boston, was originally from Lithuania and she was one of the first folks according to this book that I skimmed about her to popularize the idea of raw foods in US diets, which was around the 1940s. Raw food is generally not considered a negative thing in diet. It’s good to eat raw fruits and vegetables, but this lady, Miss Wigmore also promoted a lot of other fake and harmful claims that were just fake pseudoscience. She claimed she had a cure for diabetes and she claimed she had a cure for all these things that it was just lies and it was really harmful. Not a fan of her.

Big fan of raw food. Wheatgrass falls into the category of sprouts similar to bean sprouts and stuff like that.

Chris: Like alfalfa sprouts?

Hallie: Yeah, similar to alfalfa sprouts. Alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts are both leguminous sprouts that are dicotyledonous and these wheatgrass sprouts are monocotyledonous, so the grasses that you’re eating are basically the little embryos that have just germinated from the seeds of the wheat, but they’re very, very young. We talked about micro greens and in that episode we talked about sprouts and how there are some food safety concerns around sprouts and micro greens. You can have some food safety concerns around the wheatgrass as well as bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts because they’re so young and tender that they can have food safety issues around fungus. That can be an issue. 

Chris: Oh wow.

Hallie: Yeah, we talked about this. Particularly with bean sprouts there have been some high profile cases of food borne illness. It’s a concern. If you have these young sprouts, it can happen.

Chris: Okay. Real quick, cotyledon is a word which you have defined on the show before and it means something.

Hallie: Correct.

Chris: Now there’re these sprouts with one or two of them.

Hallie: Inside of a seed you have different parts. Part of that is the embryo and the cotyledon. Basically, once the little plant pops up from inside of the seed, you get one or two little leaf looking guys that don’t look like the rest of the leaves on the plant. That’s because they were actually inside of the seed and are part of the seed embryo that have kind of pushed out and are starting to grow. If you have a grass, it only has one of these leaf guys and it’s called monocotyledonous and then if you have two, which is pretty much the rest of plants they’re called dicotyledonous.

Chris: Cool. All right. Moving on. 

Hallie: Around wheatgrass, there are a lot of claims similar to once we’ve heard on other superfoods, quote unquote, that it’s anticarcinogenic, anti-anemia, that it can clear your skin, that it helps with joint pain. There’s not a lot of studies, however, around wheatgrass, so we don’t have a lot of info. 

Chris: All the like anticancer, anti whatever. Yeah, that sounds like a whole lot of bull sprouts.

Hallie: Oh my God. Generally, wheatgrass has good nutritional benefits as a leafy green. It can be dangerous to folks with celiac disease or who are allergic to grass or wheat products because it is wheat, but it’s leaves. Leaves are good for us generally. 

Chris: All right. Eat your leaves, eat a salad, and eat some wheatgrass. It’s good for you. It’s fine.

Hallie: That’s fine. Yeah, go for it. Get some nutrients. 

Chris: But it sounds like we’re not going to put a cape on this one. 

Hallie: No, I don’t think so. Well, there’s not a lot of science, so who knows.

We might come back in 10 years and there might be some great science showing some miraculous things that wheatgrass does. At this point, there is absolutely no evidence of that.

Chris: All right. Sounds good.  

Hallie: You ready for the next food?

Chris: I am so ready for the next food.

Hallie: It is avocado. 

Chris: Give me some guacamole, please and let it cure my [inaudible]. 

Hallie: We’re talking of course about the wonderful avocado, which is Persea Americana in the Lauraceae family, which is the Laurel trees. Love that. What do you know? 

Chris: Oh, well I just looked at the show prep notes and I see that it’s a berry, which is awesome because after all, what even is a berry as we’re asked so many times? 

Hallie: Something that’s very specific.

Chris: Yeah, it’s a berry. I don’t know. It’s good on sandwiches. It’s good on toast. It’s good mixed with jalapeno and cilantro. Maybe a little mayo and some salt and pepper and some lime juice and put on a tortilla or on a chip or whatever and it’s good. 

Hallie: Agreed. 

Chris: That’s what I know about avocados. 

Hallie: It is good. True. The word avocado actually comes from an indigenous language the Nahuatl language, which is an indigenous people from Mexico and Central America. The word is Ahuacatl and then that got translated into Spanish, which originally is a fairly anatomical description of a human body part that the avocado resembles somewhat. 

Chris: Oh, so people in native Mexico were perpetually 14 also. 

Hallie: You see it and you say it. Keep it simple. Another English name for it is the alligator pear, which is also fairly literal and I like. 

Chris: Oh, I like that because I’m sure alligators love pears too.

Hallie: Yeah, I’m sure the carnivorous reptile, the alligator loves the pear. Avocados are native to Mexico and Central America. They’re enjoyed widely around the world though on account of how delicious they are. 

Chris: They are. They’re grown pretty widely in California, are they not? 

Hallie: Yes, there are a lot of avocados grown in California. The most common cultivar of the avocado is the Hass avocado. Those are probably the ones you’re familiar with that are nice and big. Avocados are climacteric which is similar to bananas where for a banana you can buy it when it’s green before it has ripened and it can ripen off of the plant and it’s ready to go as opposed to something like a melon. A grape is non-climacteric. If you harvest those before they are ripened, they just stop maturing and they will not get up to maturity. 

Chris: Got it. There are people who actually like green bananas and they are just wrong. 

Hallie: Hey, don’t knock it. A green banana is lovely and starchy. 

Chris: Okay. If you say so.

Hallie: We don’t need to yuck a yum. People like what they like. 

Chris: I think there are just certain truths in the world.

Hallie: Avocados are dichogamous, which is such a fun plant word. Plants have great words. Basically, this means that one plant has both male and female flowers, but the different flower sexes are separated throughout time to try and facilitate cross pollination. 

Chris: Kind of like Doctor Who?

Hallie: Yeah, kind of like Doctor Who except for they’re both aging forward in time, not backwards in time.

Chris: Got it. I’m glad you said that word because I would have said dichogamous, which just sounds kind of weird but dichogamous makes sense. 

Hallie: Yeah, dichogamous. Basically it means that either the male or female flower blooms first and then a week or two weeks later, the other one blooms. This is basically just so that different plants can get on with other plants so that you have more robust mixing of DNA in reproduction, which is fine. Except for that it’s a really annoying thing for breeders because if you want to cross pollinate something that’s blooming at the same time, it’s on the same schedule, you have to go and collect pollen and then artificially pollinate it two weeks later.

It’s just a whole thing. It’s very annoying.

Chris: You never know if either the male or the female is going to be the late bloomer. 

Hallie: What? Is this a joke? 

Chris: The late bloomer.

Hallie: Is it a joke? 

Chris: Late bloomer. 

Hallie: I’m assuming this is a joke.  

Chris: Obviously.

Hallie: Flowers bloom dad. Also you can’t have flowers that are just late bloomers. 

Chris: But one of them comes later than the other one. Isn’t that what you’re saying? 

Hallie: Yeah, but it comes in order. It’s not like you’re guessing every year. I’m just taking your joke very literally. 

Chris: Okay. One of them happens first and the other one happens later. 

Hallie: Yeah, but you do know which one’s going to be the late bloomer. You can anticipate it is what I’m saying. Anyway.

Chris: Moving on. 

Hallie: You can propagate avocados by seed. Traditionally, they’re propagated asexually. Most often grafted just because it takes a really long time and if you’re growing a fruit tree by seed, then you’re going to have changes in the phenotype. If you want to propagate an avocado by seed, dad, do you know how you do this? 

Chris: You take out the seed and you plant it in the ground. 

Hallie: No, you take out the seed, you rinse it off in the sink and you poke some toothpicks in it and then you put it over a glass of water. Have you ever seen this happen? It’s like a science project that a lot of kids do. 

Chris: Maybe. You kind of make it like a little sea urchin. Oh, is this one of the things where it grows out and then it grows down into the thing and then that becomes a plant or something?

Hallie: That’s how seeds generally operate. It grows out of the seed and then down and then becomes a plant. 

Chris: Well, I’m thinking of the trees where the leaves sort of go down into the ground and then become roots. 

Hallie: Oh, no. Basically, the propagation method, whether you’re doing it at home, in a science class or you’re breeding from seed is pretty much the same where you take out the pit of the avocado, like the seed and you rinse off the outside and then you stick toothpicks in it so that it’s kind of suspended just in or over water like a glass of water. Then the radical pops out of the seed coat and goes down into the water. That’s how you propagate from seed.

Chris: It’s wild.

Hallie: Yeah, it’s very cool. That’s why a lot of science classes do it in like middle school or whenever because the seed is so big and it puts out this enormous radical, so it’s a very visual thing for kids to see and it’s just also super fun.

Chris: It sounds to me like avocado breeding is the pits. That’s it.

Hallie: That was really, really good. I liked that. 

Chris: It was all right.

Hallie: If you would like to grow your own avocado tree from seed, that’s how you do it. It will take a long time though because on account of how long trees take to get big. 

Chris: Then at some point once it’s been growing in the glass, you just transfer it to a pod or the ground or something. 

Hallie: Yeah, pretty much. The leaves of the avocado tree can actually also be used in cooking as like a little spice.

Chris: What? I have no idea. 

Hallie: It’s closely related to the bay laurel, so it makes sense.

Chris: Oh, okay. Even more praise for the avocado.


Hallie: Absolutely.

Chris: Sounds like we’re going to put a cape on it. Maybe. 

Hallie: We’ll see. The claims around the avocado, it stimulates the immune system. It helps with your hair health. Hair can’t be healthy because skin cells are dead. I don’t need to get into that. It can stimulate the immune system. It helps with hair healthiness. Prevents cataracts, maintains regularity.

Chris: Whenever I hear stimulate the immune system, that’s when my bull sprouts meter goes off. 

Hallie: All in all, there’s not a ton of evidence that it’s doing any of these things. It is however, very high in fat.


Chris: How high?

Hallie: 75% fat. 

Chris: To me that’s a wild level like when I was wowed that quinoa was 27% protein or something ridiculous like that. 

Hallie: Yeah, it’s something like that. 

Chris: Or 27 grams of protein. I don’t know. It was a high amount of protein for a little old plant and now we’ve got a plant that has a high amount of fat and I’m like, wow. 

Hallie: It is 75% fat. It’s also very high in fiber and has a good amount of potassium.

Chris: Well, potassium is important.

Hallie: It is. As berries go and fruits in general, this is pretty uncommon. Olives are also a fruit that’s pretty high in fat, but we don’t see a lot of these lovely, good fatty, oily fruits out there that we eat. Avocado oil has a pretty high heat point, so it’s really good for cooking. Generally, people often don’t lack oil/fat in their diet, but as a food, I think it’s pretty cool. I wouldn’t probably put a cape on it because you can get good fats from a lot of places. It’s not super unique as these things go. It is extremely delicious and I am a huge fan. 

Chris: Well as much as I would like for my guacamole to be a superfood, I guess I’ll just have to live with the facts. Again, it’s a decent food, but nothing super special about it except it’s deliciousness.

Hallie: Which is extreme. It’s pretty extreme. 

Chris: Well, you know what happens to tortilla chips when you put them in a good thick guacamole is they break. 

Hallie: Hey, let’s go on a break.

Chris: That’s what we’re about to do right now. 

[Background music].

Hallie: Dad did you know that we had a Facebook group?

Chris: I do because I posted some stuff there just last week and commented on another post and it’s a lot of fun. 

Hallie: Did you know that we also have a Discord group? 

Chris: I do because that too is a place where I interact with listeners much like yourself and we talk about everything and we talk about plant problems and we talk about plant jokes and all kinds of stuff. 

Hallie: Right now, my favorite part of the Discord is the wild flowers channel where I post pictures of the coolest flowers I see on my evening walks after work. 

Chris: That’s only going to last for what? Another couple of weeks? I don’t know. How long do you think we’ll have wild flowers? Not much longer. Go and see some of those pictures people. 

Hallie: It was a warm winter. The flowers came out early in this year. 

Chris: They did indeed.


Hallie: If you’d like to come give us a shout, hang around, say hi, you can find the One to Grow On Facebook group at onetogrowonpod.com/group or by searching, One to Grow On on Facebook and you can find the One to Grow On Discord group at onetogrowonpod.com/discord. That’s onetogrowonpod.com/Facebook and onetogrowonpod.com/discord.

Chris: Thank you very much to our starfruit patrons, Lindsay, Vikram, Mama Casey, Patrick and Shianne. 

Hallie: Thank you guys so much. Your support means so much to us and we really appreciate it.

Chris: Well, I’m about out of guac. I don’t know about you. I’m ready to get back to the episode.

[Background music].

Hallie: Dad, do you have a nature of fact for us today? 

Chris: I do have a nature fact for us. Our next superfood candidate is bee pollen. 

Hallie: Yes. 

Chris: Bee pollen comes from bees as the name suggests.

Hallie: Correct again. 

Chris: In the DC universe, there was a superhero who was a member of the Teen Titans in the early seventies called Bumblebee and she was DC comics’ first black female superhero. 

Hallie: Oh, that’s cool. Is that the one that’s married to Paul Rudd in the movies? 

Chris: No. 

Hallie: Oh, that’s Marvel. 

Chris: Totally different universe. Listener, on Easter we were having a discussion. 

Hallie: Oh my gosh, I cannot believe you’re bringing this up on the podcast right now.

Chris: If me and Mama Casey had finished our Millennium Falcon. Me and Mama Casey have been working on a Lego Enterprise, not Millennium Falcon. Starship Enterprise, completely different universe. Once again, here we are completely different universe, getting our universes crossed. 

Hallie: Oh my God. Listen, we all have our different talents, different skill sets. This is [inaudible].

Chris: Okay. I don’t know. I think it’s something you were pretty good at once in your life.

Hallie: The plants have overrun my mind. It’s only plants up there. 

Chris: That’s true. It’s all vegetable matter.

Hallie: Are you ready for some bee pollen?

Chris: Yeah, but I can’t believe you didn’t react to that sick pan.

Hallie: Was it a joke on gray matter? It would have been funny if you said it’s all organic matter. See there you get a soil joke a little bit too.

Chris: Oh, I guess. Now I know what plant people think is funny and they will burn. Oh well, okay. Yes, bee pollen. Give us the low down on the bee pollen, which is, all that comes from bees. 

Hallie: Yes, what else do you know about bee pollen generally?

Chris: I said it’s pollen that comes from bees kind of as a joke, but obviously the pollen comes from plants and then the bees fly around and they get the pollen on their little legs and mix it with other plants or something, correct?

Hallie: Yes, what do you know about how it is marketed/consumed? 

Chris: What? 

Hallie: We’re doing a superfood episode.

Chris: It has never really been on my radar. Maybe now that I think about it, it’s something I’ve seen at a smoothie place, which gives me low hopes for its superfood status, but I don’t really know that much about it. Wait. Let me talk to you this.

If it’s just plant pollen then why does it matter if it comes from bees or not, I guess is kind of where my head is at right now?

Hallie: It’s a very good question. Bee pollen, I guess you could put it in smoothies. Usually, I think you put it over like yogurt or a granola or something like that. I think it’s crunchy. I’ve honestly never eaten it. Pollen itself is a gametophyte, which as you mentioned comes from plants. The bee pollen is like a dusty little pellet of field gathered like you mentioned. Flower pollen that bees go and get pollen has a lot of nitrogen and this pollen serves as the bee’s primary source of protein whereas honey serves as the hives source of sugar. 

Chris: I had no idea pollen was a source of protein for bees. That’s awesome.

Hallie: It is as you mentioned gathered as opposed to something like bees wax, which is also a byproduct of bees. But bees wax is actually secreted by the bees themselves. They just go and pick up and collect into pellet shapes. I could not find a lot of info about the agricultural significance of this. I looked all over the place to find how to start farming bee pollen. There was very little information, so I think it’s pretty niche. It’s like a specialty crop that not a lot of people are growing right now. Business Insider actually in an article about bee pollen credited the popularity of it as a product to a Victoria Beckham tweet.

Chris: Oh bull sprouts. I’m just going to start using that for everything. Can I make an anti-claim?

Hallie: Sure. Is it an anti-Victoria Beckham because if so, I will not hear it?

Chris: No, it’s just an anti-claim. It’s speculation on my part to be sure. But I bet the bees don’t even really come into the mix. I bet they just get some pollen from some plants that the bees probably would’ve liked just fine and say, “Hey, look. Bee pollen.”

Hallie: Pretty much. This is just a dusty little ball of pollen and there’s not bee gunk on there or anything. It’s just pollen, so it’s just plant stuff. The claims around pollen are, again, similar to what we’ve heard before, it protects from cancer, it boosts liver function, it’s anti-inflammatory, it helps with hot flashes, helps with allergies, which we hear with honey. However, bee pollen is field gathered, right? The bees are just doing their own thing. The actual makeup of the pollen itself can vary from hive to hive. It can vary from bee to bee. It can vary from hour to hour on the same bee within the same hive because the bees are just going about their business and so you can have all kinds of stuff up in there in terms of pollen. There’s not really any clear evidence that it can treat or prevent any ailment because it’s harvested by bees. There are a lot of variables that are extremely difficult to control because you know the bees go where the bees go, so it can be contaminated and it can be dangerous if you have serious allergies because the bee goes where the bee goes.

Chris: You can’t control the bee.

Hallie: Perhaps one day we can control the bee, but should we control the bee?

Chris: That’s a good question, but if we could, maybe we could save them from extinction because of our modern cultures and such things.

Hallie: Who knows?

Chris: I don’t know.

Hallie: Probably it wise, if I have learned anything from movies, it’s not a good idea.

Chris: That’s probably true. That probably would lead to a bee revolt and then we’d all be in real trouble.

Hallie: Honestly, the bees can rule me.

Chris: Now we’re just getting political.

Hallie: Is it political to say the bees can rule me?

Chris: Yes, because it implies that you’re not happy with the current administration.

Hallie: I’m not happy with the current humanity.

Chris: Fair enough. All right, so in bee pollen, maybe it’s fine, but nothing special.

Hallie: Yeah, nothing special. There’s not a lot of nutrition associated with it. It is some I think crunchy guys. If you are looking for crunchy guys, this seems to be an option, but it doesn’t really seem like they have a lot to bring to the table according to current science.

Chris: That’s kind of a bummer. But bees make honey and pollinate our plants so it’s not their fault.

Hallie: More like a buzzer.

Chris: Nice one.

Hallie: Thank you. Should we talk about spelt?

Chris: Let’s talk about spelt.

Hallie: The scientific name for spelt is Triticum spelta. It’s in the same genus as wheat. Another common name for spelt is actually dinkel wheat.

Chris: That sounds like a derogatory term for wheat. No, it’s just some dinkel wheat.

Hallie: Interestingly in Greek mythology, spelt was actually given by Demeter to humans and humans have been eating spelt for thousands of years. This is something we have been eating for a long time.

Chris: Nice. Thanks Demeter. I know on the Spirits Podcast produced by Catherine was talking about Demeter as one of her favorite goddesses.

Hallie: Demeter is great. Demeter is extremely good and for more information on how great Demeter is, you can find our episode where we guested on the Spirits Podcast and gushed about Demeter for like 25 minutes.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: Spelt has been eaten in the US for a long time, but it got replaced by wheat just because wheat is easier to grow and a little bit more delicious. However, the biodynamic/organic farming movement of the 1970s revived the popularity of spelt because it requires less added soil nutrition than wheat.

Chris: Oh, it’s easier to grow.

Hallie: Yeah, it can be easier to grow. It’s arguably less delicious. I don’t want to drag spelt here. I’m not that much of a fan, but it can be a bit hardier and it can just stand up to a bit more. Today, we eat some spelts in America. It’s much more popular in Germany than most other places. It’s more in the cuisine in Germany, but people eat it in different places, in small amounts. It’s not terribly common. We do also use it for a feed grain for the cows and horses and stuff like that.

Chris: It’s popular in Germany. It’s coming back here so maybe for just a time here, we miss spelt. I miss spelt.

Hallie: No, I got it dad. I did get the joke.

Chris: All right. I’m glad.

Hallie: The claims around spelt are that it lowers the risk of stroke. It lowers the risk of heart attack. It can help with diabetes and cancer. There’s not really a lot of evidence here. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to have any cape worthy foods in this episode. Sorry to bum you guys out. It is high in protein, has some good fiber, and has some good phosphorus. It has gluten, so it’s not great if you are trying to avoid gluten, but generally whole grains are good for you. This is kind of similar to a whole grain oat or a whole grain wheat or something like that. It’s good to have whole grains.

Chris: If you want some spelt, eat some spelt, it’ll be good for you, but don’t expect all the big stuff.

Hallie: Don’t expect some big stuff. Do eat avocados on account of how delicious they are. Perhaps enjoy you some wheatgrass or other small little friends. Have a lovely afternoon perhaps including some avocados.

Chris: Have a lovely afternoon. Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you like the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].

Persimmons

33: Persimmons Transcript

Listen to the full episode.

Hallie Casey  0:00 

Hello and welcome to One To Grow On the show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris Casey  0:12 

And I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to discuss and this week we are focusing on persimmons.

Hallie Casey  0:26 

I am so excited to talk about this fruit!

Chris Casey  0:28 

Persimmons. You used to say parsimmons.

Hallie Casey  0:34 

I still say parsimmons sometimes.

Chris Casey  0:36 

Yeah, you do.

Hallie Casey  0:37 

What do you know about the persimmon, Dad?

Chris Casey  0:40 

I know there’s this guy on YouTube that’s trying to eat them and they are a fruit, judging by some pictures that I saw. Maybe they’re a berry. And that’s all I really know.

Hallie Casey  0:55 

Yes. So I posted in our One To Grow On Discord. Quick plug if you’re interested, you can go to OneToGrowOnPod.com/discord about yeah, there’s this guy who has a YouTube channel. I was subscribed to him from back in the day, a million years ago. And he kind of revitalized his channel recently to try and like persimmons, which is not as easy of a task as one may think it is.

Chris Casey  1:23 

So persimmons aren’t very likable, I’m guessing.

Hallie Casey  1:26 

So they can be likable, and we’re gonna get to that they can also be distinctively unlikable.

Chris Casey  1:31 

Alright.

Hallie Casey  1:32 

So you’re right persimmons are berries. Good job. They’re in the genus Diospyros in the family Ebenaceae which is the ebony family, which is known for the dark wood that is used in carving.

Chris Casey  1:48 

Oh, so does it have the same kind of wood?

Hallie Casey  1:50 

No.

Chris Casey  1:51 

Oh, it’s just related to a tree that has that kind of wood.

Hallie Casey  1:54 

Exactly. Yeah. There are lots of different kinds of persimmons, the most common one is Diospyros kaki or kackai? I don’t know which one it is. That’s the most commonly produced one commercially. It’s native to mainland China and parts of Japan and you can buy it most places here in the US depending on seasonality. So that’s the one that usually see you in grocery stores.

Chris Casey  2:18 

Cool.

Hallie Casey  2:19 

There’s also Diospyros Nigra, which is native to Mexico and parts of Texas. That’s the common name is the chocolate pudding fruit.

Chris Casey  2:26 

Wait, is it called that because it tastes like chocolate pudding? I feel like it would have heard of this fruit.

Hallie Casey  2:33 

It’s called that because the flesh is very dark like chocolate pudding.

Chris Casey  2:38 

Oooooh.

Hallie Casey  2:38 

It’s also called the Sapote in Spanish.

Chris Casey  2:40 

Sapote? I still haven’t heard of it.

Unknown Speaker  2:42 

Well, it’s native to our region. There’s another one that’s native to our region called Diospyros Texana.

Chris Casey  2:47 

Okay.

Hallie Casey  2:48 

Do you know anything about Diospyros Texana?

Chris Casey  2:50 

Is it from Texas?

Hallie Casey  2:51 

It is yeah, it is from Texas. You have eaten this persimmon.

Chris Casey  2:56 

What?!

Hallie Casey  2:57 

Yes, you have eaten Diospyros Texana.

Chris Casey  2:59 

No. Really?

Hallie Casey  3:01 

Yes they grow in the Central Texas Hill Country.

Chris Casey  3:03 

Are they agaritas?

Hallie Casey  3:04 

No they’re not.

Chris Casey  3:07 

So what is it? When have I eaten this thing?

Hallie Casey  3:10 

Probably when you were traipsing around the central Texas Hill Country. I think I ate some with you I ate some with Katherine this last summer. When we were down towards Big Ben. I made her stop and eat them because they were fruiting at the end of the summer. They don’t really look like the commercial ones. The commercial ones are big, kind of like a like a large beefsteak tomato size. These Diospyros Texana, the Texas persimmons are maybe like the size of like a large marble or like a little bit bigger than a grape. And they have like some big seeds on the inside and they are dark purple in color and they stay in your teeth and they’re pretty delicious.

Chris Casey  3:50 

Okay, but I wasn’t with you when you went to Big Bend.

Hallie Casey  3:54 

I know but I’m pretty sure that either me or Mom would have forced you to foriage some Mexican persimmons or Texas persimmons at some point.

Chris Casey  4:06 

Hmmmm… I don’t remember this but maybe.

Hallie Casey  4:08 

I bet it! I bet so.

Chris Casey  4:10 

Did Producer Katherine like the persimmon when she ate it?

Hallie Casey  4:16 

I think she did. Yeah, I mean it’s a lot of seed it’s not bread. So it’s, it’s a lot of seed. There’s not a lot else in there unfortunately. But they are often harvested to make things like puddings or breads, or you know different stuff like that.

Chris Casey  4:33 

I’ve never had persimmon pudding or persimmon bread now I’m very curious.

Hallie Casey  4:37 

I had it once in college we had a professor who likes to celebrate our final, I think like baked us some persimmon bread, and I think she made something else with like a native plant. It was really cute. Everyone should become an ag major because your professors always bring you food.

Chris Casey  4:52 

Okay, you say it was really cute, but was it delicious?

Hallie Casey  4:56 

I thought it was delicious. Yeah, it’s like it’s kind of like a like a prune and nut bread like something that’s like kind of like sticky and you put nuts on it so it’s got a little crunch to it but the persimmons themselves, the Texas ones are really kind of thick and putting a similar to the sapote.

Chris Casey  5:12 

Did everyone else think it was delicious?

Hallie Casey  5:14 

I don’t remember I was very self centered teenager.

Chris Casey  5:18 

Okay, I’m just trying to get a bead on how this thing tastes.

Hallie Casey  5:21 

Yeah, so well that’s the Texas one. You can’t usually buy those ones you have to know when they’re fruiting and then go out and forage for them. They’re actually starting to flower right now, which is a little early for them because everything in here in Texas has been flowering a little bit early because it’s been a warm winter. So they’ll probably be coming in in like June or July where they usually come in around July or August. But that’s pretty much all we’re going to be talking about Diospyros Texana, because most of the episode we’re going to be talking about Diospyros Kaki which is like the commercial one.

Chris Casey  5:53 

The ones from Japan.

Hallie Casey  5:54 

Yeah, and Mainland China. So I first learned about the Japanese persimmon when I was in my post harvest class when I was in grad school, do you know what post harvest means?

Chris Casey  6:06 

Does it mean how to pick plants? No- how to store plants?

Hallie Casey  6:12 

Yes, exactly how to store plants. And the reason we talked about this for persimmons is because persimmons are very hard to store in a way that makes them delicious.

Chris Casey  6:25 

Okay, so I remember, you could store the apple up to like a year, right in giant silos, and I was shocked. So is the persimmon not similar?

Hallie Casey  6:36 

It’s not similar in that when you store an apple, you kind of pick it and then you chuck it in a bin, whereas with the persimmon, you have very different kinds of persimmons based on the cultivars and then how you store them has to be really really intricate, so it really quickly, persimmons. We don’t grab a lot of them a lot because of these issues with storing them. We’ve grew 7.9 million tons in 2018.

Chris Casey  7:04 

That’s sounds like a lot.

Hallie Casey  7:05 

it sounds like a lot. Yeah, it’s like 17.4 billion pounds. Most of that was grown in China, a lot of that was sold in eastern Asia because it’s more common to eat it there. It’s kind of more in the cuisine, people are more, you know, experienced with eating it. Here in North America, it’s not as common. To be put in the cuisine, partly because it has had some issues being grown here in the US. Pretty much all of the persimmon growth in the US comes out of California. And there’s a lot of competition for California real estate. There’s a lot of other crops that are jockeying for those fields. So if you haven’t quite cracked the persimmon, like a recipe on how to grow it perfect and then market it, then it’s hard to do it in a way that’s economical because that land is just so valuable.

Chris Casey  8:01 

And so many things we eat come from there.

Hallie Casey  8:03 

It’s true.

Chris Casey  8:04 

Okay, so like you said 17.4 billion pounds. How do people consume these billions of pounds of persimmons? I’m wondering.

Hallie Casey  8:15 

A lot of them are eaten fresh, just like fresh produce. You can also put them in things like jams or in desserts or in other things like that, that you would put a sweet fruit in. But for the most part, they are known as a fresh fruit that you would eat kind of like how you would just eat an apple or something like that where you just chomp it.

Chris Casey  8:34 

Does it have to be peeled or anything like that?

Hallie Casey  8:37 

No, no, you just chomp it. You just get in there and chomp it and Japanese persimmons have seedless fruits. So that’s nice because generally, the persimmon seeds can be pretty hefty. So that’s quite nice if you’re just going to chomp something if there’s no there’s no seeds in the side of it.

Chris Casey  8:57 

All right. Well, you know when I’m editing the episode, it feels like I have to chomp a cut. When we go into a break, chomp chomp chomp chomp chomp. 😉

Hallie Casey  9:11 

Dad, did you know that we have a discord channel?

Chris Casey  9:15 

I did know that! It’s a lot of fun.

Hallie Casey  9:20 

We also have a Facebook group, both on the discord channel and on the Facebook group Dad and I post all the time. Lots of other folks who listen to the podcast come in and we talk about plants and all the plants that we’re hoping to grow and there’s right now actually in the discord, there’s a whole channel just dedicated to wildflower pictures. And it’s amazing. It’s like my favorite place on the internet right now. If you just want to come and discuss how beautiful the blooms are. That’s the place to do it.

Chris Casey  9:49 

It’s true. There’s some great pictures. People get advice on the plants that they have. If they’re not doing well. Maybe they need water or maybe they need sun or something and people talk about that. And I make hilarious jokes all the time and it’s great!

Hallie Casey  10:08 

if you want to join either the Facebook group or the discord you can go to onetogrowownpod.com/discord or / group and find us there. That’s onetogrowonpod.com/discord for the discord and onetogrowonpod.com/group for the Facebook group.

Chris Casey  10:25 

And a big thank you to all of our patrons especially our star fruit patrons. Patrick, Vikram, Lindsey, Mama Casey and Cheyenne.

Hallie Casey  10:35 

Thank you guys so much. Should we get back to the episode?

Chris Casey  10:39 

Back to the episode!

Ad Music Outro  10:44 

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Hallie Casey  10:46 

Okay, dad, do you have any Nature Facts for us?

Chris Casey  10:48 

I do! This one I came across just randomly. A friend of mine named Kevin post the Austin improv schedule every day and in that schedule, he posts a random fact and  one day, his random fact was about the Rocky Mountain locust. Which was one of the dominant pests of the 19th century. And he said that once form in April of 1875 covered 200,000 square miles.

Hallie Casey  11:14 

Wow!

Chris Casey  11:15 

Yep. But over a period, I’m not sure when they started but over a period of about 30 years, agricultural development in the Rocky Mountains accidentally destroyed the locust nesting grounds and made the species completely extinct. And now North America is the only inhabited continent without a locust species.

Hallie Casey  11:37 

Wait, I thought locusts were the same as grasshoppers. I was pretty sure that a locust was the same as a grasshopper and so now I’m really- wait! Was the locus a cicada?

Chris Casey  11:45 

Locusts are neither grasshoppers nor cicadas. I think some people call cicadas locusts but they’re not the same.

Hallie Casey  11:55 

I am very surprised by this news!

Chris Casey  11:58 

Right? If you look up a picture of them they do look a lot like a grasshopper. It’s a species of short horn grasshoppers.

Hallie Casey  12:09 

Okay, so it’s like a specific kind of grasshopper. So we have other grasshoppers…

Chris Casey  12:13 

Yes.

Hallie Casey  12:14 

So a locust is a grasshopper but a grasshopper is not a locust. Right? Okay. Okay. That’s very interesting. Do you know there’s also trees called locust trees?

Chris Casey  12:23 

No, I had no idea.

Hallie Casey  12:24 

Yeah, they’re in the lagoon family. We have a lot of them here in Texas.

Chris Casey  12:28 

Do they make beans?

Hallie Casey  12:28 

They do make beans.

Chris Casey  12:30 

Nice.

Hallie Casey  12:32 

Ta da da ta da! Nature fact!

Chris Casey  12:34 

Nature fact! Alright, so, in the first half of the episode, you used a word that I didn’t ask you about, which was cultavar. What is that?

Hallie Casey  12:47 

So a VAR variety is a specific -What do we call it? We call it a… we don’t call it bloodlines because plants don’t have bloodlines.

Chris Casey  13:00 

Do the half chlorophyll lines?

Hallie Casey  13:04 

HAAA! That has to go in the outtakes cuz I was not on my mic when I said bloodline.

Chris Casey  13:10 

Does it have a genetic lineage?

Hallie Casey  13:12 

Yeah. So VARities is basically a specific kind of like a breed of plant kind of like you would have a breed of dogs. But the thing that’s different is that varieties are naturally occurring. So you just have some plants that cross a bunch and maybe they’re a little bit geographically isolated, and they start kind of doing their own thing in a way where it’s not like they can’t get with other plants that are still in the species, but they keep doing something that just makes them a little bit different. Sometimes this has to do with flower color, or like shape or size. But the word culturivar was invented to describe basically breeds of plants that were actually bred. So it’s short for cultivated variety.

Chris Casey  14:00 

Okay kind of like selecting for a seed for some plant. Basically it’s like that you’re just you’re just breeding the ones you want.

Hallie Casey  14:09 

Yeah, yeah, seed breeding. There’s all kinds of crossbreeding and stuff like that.

Chris Casey  14:16 

They’re not clones.

Hallie Casey  14:18 

No, they are not clones. But a clone is a plant. Usually if you have a clone, then it has some kind of plant trademark, which is different than a cultivar, but similar in a lot of ways, but-

Chris Casey  14:30 

Just taking our favorite plants and breeding them!

Hallie Casey  14:32 

Exactly. Most of these Japanese persimmons are producing seedless fruit, which is great, but some of these Japanese persimmons with seedless fruit produce astringent fruit. Do you know the word astringent? It’s kind of a weird word. I remember when I learned it, I had no idea what it meant.

Chris Casey  14:49 

I do I used to make beer. If I did something wrong or left something in the mash or the boil or something too long or something while to get in there that shouldn’t be then yeah, it would have an astringent flavor and it was not good at all.

Hallie Casey  15:06 

Yeah, astringency can mean like acidity or bitterness, generally just kind of a gross flavor that can’t really be described any other way because it’s a flavor. It’s like trying to describe colors. It just is what that is.

Chris Casey  15:21 

That’s true.

Hallie Casey  15:21 

So, the persimmons that are astringent that do become astringent have to be eaten superduper soft, whereas if you have persimmons that have been bred to be non astringent, then you can eat them super crisp like an apple.

Chris Casey  15:36 

And I guess different people just have different preferences as to which persimmon they like and presumably they’re marketed as such like if I go to a persimmon grocery store, then you have the astringent persimmons and the non astringent persimmon, sort of like you’d have Golden Delicious apples and what’s the one that goes in pies, Granny Smith?

Hallie Casey  15:58 

Yeah, yeah. Very similar to that, the most common astringent persimmon is a hot chia. The most common non astringent one is a Fuyu. That’s true that like different people have different tastes, but also whether or not it can be sold crisp has a really big impact on how long you can store it because if you have to keep it around until it’s real squishy, then that can be an issue for getting it out to market because then you usually have a pretty short shelf life.

Chris Casey  16:26 

Do these ripen as they sit on the shelf or in storage?

Hallie Casey  16:31 

Yeah, so the astringent ones can the non astringent ones can as well but you’re not as concerned with ripening because they’re already tasting good. Whereas if you have one that tastes bad, you really have to make sure it’s ripe.

Chris Casey  16:44 

Got it.

Hallie Casey  16:44 

So  one of the wild things that scientists have found is that if you take persimmons that have astringency you can what’s called cure them before they go to market.

Chris Casey  16:57 

You mean like jerky?

Hallie Casey  16:58 

Kind of. What happens is that you usually have these persimmons that are put into a big room or like a just some somewhere that’s that’s airtight, and they are brought up to 80% co2 for 24 hours at 20 degrees Celsius, and then after that they are not astringent anymore, but they can still be firm.

Chris Casey  17:22 

Weird

Hallie Casey  17:23 

Isn’t that wild?

Chris Casey  17:24 

I’m trying to picture that just a bunch of persimmons in a room with high concentration of co2 and it changes the flavor.

Hallie Casey  17:32 

Yeah, it changes the flavor without changing the firmness so you can also cure these astringent persimmons. If you put them in 10 parts per million ethylene at 20 degrees Celsius, but then you they usually go soft really quickly. So unlike any other fruit really we use high concentrations of co2 to cure the persimmons while maintaining firmness. There’s not really any other produce as far as I’m aware that you do this with most other things when you’re doing post harvest, you have to use ethylene or some other hormone. co2 is not a hormone. It’s wild.

Chris Casey  18:10 

So, to answer my earlier question, no, that’s nothing like curing beef jerky.

Hallie Casey  18:16 

I don’t know that much about beef jerky.

Chris Casey  18:18 

Which you just cover in salts and spices and stick it in the fridge for a day.

Hallie Casey  18:25 

I mean, it is also stuck in somewhere for a day. So in that sense, that’s true. And a cold place for a day!

Chris Casey  18:32 

And it does presumably change the chemical composition since it comes out with a different flavor. So scientists discovered that this happens do they discover the mechanism for this happening?

Hallie Casey  18:42 

They might have I have not discovered it however. So I have one more fun persimmon fact. So unripend persimmons, these astringent ones have shibiall which is asoluble tannins. Aannins create astringency. It’s why we don’t eat things like acorns because they have a lot of these tannins in them.

Chris Casey  19:00 

Boy, do they ever!

Hallie Casey  19:01 

So shibiall polymerizes when it comes in contact with a weak acid such as stomach acid, and so if you eat a lot of unripe persimmons, it can polymerize in your stomach and form what is medically known as a a bezoar.

Chris Casey  19:15 

Hold the phone.  So when you say polymerize you mean like turn solid?

Hallie Casey  19:24 

Yeah, turn solid into a gross little stomach rock.

Chris Casey  19:26 

Wow, that’s amazing.

Hallie Casey  19:29 

Is that not amazing? It’s super weird and kind of gross because if you look on the Wikipedia page, they have a lot of photos of like jewelry that was made with bezoars.

Chris Casey  19:40 

I mean, once a bezoar forms inside of you I feel like there’s only one way to get it out.

Hallie Casey  19:46 

Yep, pretty much.

Chris Casey  19:48 

And people want to wear that as jewelry.

Hallie Casey  19:51 

Yeah, a lot of them aren’t human bezoars as well. They are bezoars from things like goats.

Chris Casey  19:56 

Okay, well, which is what it is in the Harry Potter books. I mean, is that really more gross than coffee that’s been pooped out by beetles or whatever?

Hallie Casey  20:08 

I think it is. I know a lot about that coffee that has gone through a digestive process. I don’t think it’s that gross. We can do a whole episode on coffee and I can get all into the poop coffee.

Chris Casey  20:20 

All right, well, I’m looking forward to some poop coffee! I want to see what a bezoar looks like. Oh, there’s one with hair sticking out of it.

Hallie Casey  20:28 

Yeah, that’s coming from your stomach.

Chris Casey  20:32 

Dude! There’s not hair your stomach, you know, whatever.

Hallie Casey  20:36 

I mean, if you’re an animal that eats animals, there probably is.

Chris Casey  20:40 

Thanks for listening to this episode of One To Grow On!

Hallie Casey  20:43 

This show is hosted by me Hallie Casey and Chris Casey. It is produced by Katherine RJ

Chris Casey  20:47 

and Holly Casey.

Hallie Casey  20:48 

Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.

Chris Casey  20:51 

Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at One To Grow On Pod.

Chris Casey  20:55 

You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website, onetogrowonpod.com. Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras fascinating follow ups, and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie Casey  21:15 

If you like the show, pleaseshare it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris Casey  21:21 

Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks!

Hallie Casey  21:23 

But until then keep on growin’!

Chris Casey  21:24 

Bye, everybody.

Empty Market Shelves in COVID19 Outbreak

#AskOnetoGrowOn 6: COVID19 Edition Transcript

Listen to the full episode.

Chris: Hey, listener. Hallie and Chris here. At some point, Hallie’s track has a bunch of clicking noise. It comes and goes. There’s not a whole lot of it. I don’t know what caused it. I didn’t know how to get rid of it. I’m sorry, but there’s a lot of good stuff in this episode, so I hope you listen anyway and we’ll see you again in our Tuesday episode on persimmons.

[Background music].

Hallie: Hello and welcome to Ask One to Grow On our mini episode series where I answer your questions, queries, and concerns. Today, we actually have two guests on which we don’t usually do for Ask One to Grow On episodes, but it’s kind of a special topic and I really wanted to get their input and their feedback and then just include them in the process of kind of asking these questions and then answering them together. Today on Ask One to Grow On we have Chris Casey.

Chris: Hello. I’m Hallie’s dad.

Hallie: Our first ever normie guest, Joanna Casey, my very own sister.

Joanna: Hi.

Hallie: We actually have a lot of questions today. This was inspired by actually Joanna which is why she’s here because she has had a lot of questions and conversations with friends and people about how the COVID-19 virus is impacting the agricultural supply system and the food system more generally and so I thought maybe she could collate some questions for us and we could just go through and talk about it. If you don’t want to listen to more virus talk, no hard feelings, we have a new episode coming out on Tuesday that is not going to be virus related at all. But this was just something that’s really topical and so I wanted to kind of get two folks on the horn and chat through and just kind of talk through in process a little bit. Jo, do you want to kick us off with our first question?

Joanna: Sure. Okay. I think probably the most common thing that I’ve been asked in the past couple I don’t know week or two weeks or so is what’s going on with restaurants? One of my close friends just asked me there aren’t restaurants at the end of a really big agricultural supply chain that’s different and not connected to grocery stores. How are those farmers who usually supply to restaurants doing? What are they doing now?

Hallie: Yeah, that was a great question. I want to say first off, there’s not a lot of national or international data at all on how this is impacting specific sectors of the economy. Like we can see the stock market generally is not doing well, but looking more specifically at agriculture and how is this impacting farmers? I have info on how it’s working in Austin through my work that I’m doing at my job, but I don’t have information beyond that other than I’m on some listservs and I’ve been reading some white papers and some letters that different national organizations have been putting together. I’ve been trying to tune into the conversation, but there’s not any data at all. What I’ve been seeing is farmers that are selling and which are already set up to sell direct to consumer are doing really well right now. People aren’t eating out. People are purchasing more grocery goods and people are trying to continue to eat healthy and so those farmers that were selling at farmers’ markets or had CSA set up or were doing delivery options are doing really, really well. Farmers that were selling exclusively to restaurants have lost 100% of their client base and are having a really hard time pivoting to completely change their marketing operation. That’s what I’m seeing currently.

Joanna: Okay. I’m so confused. What’s a CSA and how do farmers sell directly to consumers when they’re not at a farmers’ market?

Hallie: Yeah, so the CSA stands for community supported agriculture and basically you can as a person or as a family or sometimes like friends will split it between multiple people. You just get a share of general veggies. It’s like a premade box that is whatever we’re harvesting we split it between 50 people or 100 people or whoever, however many shares we have in our CSA and you get a box and you don’t necessarily know what’s in it every week.

Joanna: Just like a random box of seasonal veggies.

Hallie: Yeah, it’s like what’s in season now. It can include eggs. It can include meat, but usually it’s just going to be veggies. Sometimes you get some fruit in there as well.

Chris: Unfortunately, it can also include okra.

Hallie: Yeah, there’re jokes among people who subscribed to CSA. Cabbage and okra and kale and some of these things where it’s just kind of dead of winter crops and when they come, they come in the hundreds and so then you’re just eating nothing but pounds and pounds of cabbage for two or three weeks.

Joanna: What are farmers who were completely sourced to restaurants doing? Are they being able to set up their own CSA systems? At least in Austin I know that’s the only site that you can speak to, but is there something that they’re being able to do to pivot and directly sell now to a consumer?

Hallie: One of the things that’s been really cool about working at my job during the pandemic is that personally I’m kind of in the front lines of seeing all of the amazing ways that people are trying to support their food system here in Austin. Like at my organization we have farmer’s markets, so we have a pretty large network of farmers and I am kind of the designated person to field other market inquiries, so I get emails almost daily of people being like, “Hey, I have this app that I’m trying to connect farmers to customers” or like, “Hey, I have this restaurant or I have this grocery store” or, “Hey, I’m trying this new thing and we’re trying to buy from local farmers because we know that people are hurting.”

Joanna: Oh, very cool.

Hallie: It’s amazing. Here in Austin there’re a lot of really cool options for farmers and part of what I’m doing at my job is trying to reach out and connect with those farmers that are selling directly to restaurants and helping them pivot their operation because it’s really like a weird thing to do. I mean, it would be weird for any business if you have a client base and you know exactly who they are and you’ve been working with them for years and then they just all disappear and you have to completely try and start a new strategy for selling your products.

Joanna: Yeah.

Hallie: It’s a really weird thing for a farmer to do and they’re also in the middle of planting season so there’s dealing with a lot right now and they’re also dealing with labor shortage because folks are having a hard time coming out if they are an at risk population or if they care for someone in their home that’s in an at risk population. There’s a lot of interesting options. Usually, farmers that are selling directly to restaurants are smaller as well. Usually, they’re a little bit bigger often than farms that are selling directly to consumer because restaurants often are buying in higher quantities but not necessarily. But you still are looking at pretty small farms that have a network of buyers and so they’re usually pretty vulnerable in dealing with a small margin.

Joanna: Okay. I mean, that’s to be expected. The smallest groups are the ones that are the most vulnerable to impact on this scale I suppose. My other question and I don’t even know if you’ll be able to answer this of one of my many other questions is how long does it take? Can they just go into grocery stores? Like a farmer who was going to only restaurants, can they just pivot and supply to a grocery store chain now? Is that something that’s doable?

Hallie: That is usually up to the farmer and the grocery store as a relationship. My job approached HEB and Central Market which are two larger grocery stores in our region and said, “Hey, would you be willing to buy locally?” They said, “Yeah, sure. But we can’t change our onboarding process for vendors.” Their onboarding process for vendors is really set up for larger farms and they have some requirements that are really onerous for smaller farmers where they just do not have the time, they don’t have the capacity, they don’t have the funds to set up this infrastructure to address the onboarding requirements for these larger grocery stores. I’m not trying to get on here and call out HEB and Central Market. There are really good reasons why grocery stores have to have certain requirements and we’re in a really weird time generally speaking. I’m not trying to get on here and blast them. They do amazing things for the local food scene here in Austin specifically. Again, I can’t talk more broadly, nationally because that’s not my expertise, but there are some smaller grocery stores in Austin that don’t have to stick with those really intense onboarding processes and so they are able to bring on more local producers. But it’s just about relationships and it’s just about does this company trust this other person to bring in quality product on time reliably? Because when you get down to it, the food system is just run by a lot of people. Sometimes that can be tricky just navigating those relationships.

Joanna: I don’t know. It’s kind of frustrating. It’s like one of those things that make so much sense when you’re in a normal functioning society where you know it’s not all going to pot like it is right now.

Hallie: Right.

Joanna: But right now I’m just like everybody go buy from the people who have extra supply. Everybody will sell it to you. One of my other things are technically, restaurants are still open, right? But only for carry out or delivery. Why are they essential? Why does that count as an essential business? I understand why restaurants. I mean, why grocery stores count as an essential business because they’re a direct access to food. But why can’t people just cook at home all the time?

Chris: I have a guess.

Hallie: Yeah.

Joanna: Why won’t you guess?

Chris: My guess is they’re not. We’re just trying to on a wing and a prayer. I hope they don’t all go out of business.

Hallie: Interesting. Yeah, restaurant dining rooms did close in a lot of cities including here in Austin. All bars closed here in Austin as well. I think that that’s also pretty common across the US but I haven’t been keeping super up to date. However, yes, people can cook at home, but if you are a student or if you’re someone who’s disabled or otherwise have problems accessing the kitchen or cooking implements, it can be really hard for a lot of folks to cook their own meals. If you’re a doctor who works 19 hours a day, you might not have time and so you need to purchase prepared foods that are just ready to eat. So having delivery and takeout in addition to helping economically support these small businesses through a hard time can also improve food access and improve all these other things within the economy.

Chris: That does shed a new light on it for me. Thank you.

Hallie: Yeah, for sure.

Joanna: You were talking about the CSA. No, I can’t even remember. Is that the correct acronym, CSA?

Hallie: Yeah, Community supported agriculture.

Joanna: Okay. You were talking about the CSAs. What are good resources for people to be able to access them? Is there like a website where they’re all compounded, people can find local ones? That seems to be the most sensible way for people to access direct local produce. Is that true?

Hallie: Yeah, there are a lot of different options for purchasing directly from a farmer. CSAs are usually available directly from farm, so you kind of have to know what farms are in your area. My organization is a nonprofit within the city and so we are kind of known as a food entity. We put together a food access list that includes a lot of info on CSAs. There might also be other organizations near you wherever you’re at that have to do with food access or have to do with farmers that have put together lists like that. You can also purchase. There are delivery options. I can put some links in the show notes. One of them is called Barn2Door. I think here in Austin we have one called Farmhouse Delivery and Farm To Table. There’s a whole list of other national ones and I can put some more info on that in the show notes. In terms of CSAs, it’s really specific to the farms, but there are some of these delivery organizations that are nonprofit, some of them are for profit and they operate more nationally. But usually they try and get local food to local people.

Joanna: Very cool. If either you don’t know how to access a CSA or you don’t have a direct CSA, but you do have a farmer’s market, can you still go to farmer’s markets? It’s like farmer’s markets are relatively small and if you’re trying to stay away from people, do you think that’s still a decent idea?

Chris: Stay home. Don’t go anywhere.

Hallie: I agree with dad. It is good to stay home. It’s also important to have food and purchase food.

Chris: Yeah.

Hallie: Here in Austin. The farmer’s markets were classified similarly to the grocery stores and I think that from my opinion that was a really wise move made by Mayor Adler. Other cities might have closed their markets, they might also be open. You have to check with your local farmers’ market entity and your local public health organizations. If you do go to the farmer’s markets from what I have seen online of other markets, I know what we’re doing in our markets. But from what I’ve seen of other farmer’s markets, there’re a lot of really good guidelines out there that farmer’s markets are following. At our markets, specifically, farmers are doing a lot of pre-packaging where they pre bag all the foods, so when you get there you can just take it and go. You don’t have to handle the produce and neither does the farmer. The farmers are wearing gloves. There’s a lot of hand sanitizer. We have kind of bouncers that are very friendly that try and help people keep a safe distance between each other. You know it is important to buy food regardless of if you’re going to buy it at the grocery store or at the farmer’s market, you’re going to have to interact with other people and so if you can do that at the farmer’s market, if you can help support farmers, that’s amazing. But yeah, it is also important to take care of your health. If there are delivery options in your area, go ahead. Look into those. Keep yourself and other people safe as much as possible.

Joanna: If you can’t do a CSA delivery system, then it wouldn’t be there.

Hallie: Yeah, there are also apps. Like here in Austin we have an app called Vinder, V-I-N-D-E-R. There are other apps in other towns that basically it’s kind like DoorDash but for farmers like farm fresh food.

Joanna: What? That’s so cool.

Hallie: 2020 is a great year to be alive. There’re a lot of options for getting farm fresh food to you delivered. Yeah, you might have to do some digging for your area but there are options.

Chris: I bet you’re not going to hear a lot of people say 2020 is a great year to be alive. But to be fair, if we were alive at another time during a pandemic like this, we’d probably not be doing as well as we are.

Hallie: There’re a lot of resources out there, tools and a lot of people doing good work which is really cool. I will keep saying this. It keeps blowing my mind every day I show up to work. I mean, I’m working from home, but I show up on my work computer and it just blows my mind how many people are doing like really, really, really cool work that is helping support their community.

Joanna: If they do get a CSA or they go to the grocery store. Well, obviously they’re going to do something to acquire food. When they acquire that food, are there like best practices for washing produce?

Hallie: From what I know and this is not my area of expertise, I think that the CDC guidelines say that the virus cannot live on inanimate objects for more than three to four hours. Feel free to fact check me and add me on Twitter and say that I got that wrong. If I did, I might have.

Chris: Definitely your dad will check it.

Hallie: That’s not my area of expertise. Yeah, but I think to my knowledge those are the guidelines. Three to four hours the virus can’t live on inanimate objects. You should always be washing your produce. Please wash your produce. You guys wash your produce. It’s good to wash produce regardless of if we’re in a pandemic or not. It’s always good to wash your produce.

Joanna: How though? Do I just like take a scrubby brush to it? I dunk it in some bleach. What’s the system, Hallie?

Hallie: Just in some warm water.

Chris: Do not bleach your food.

Hallie: I was joking. Just some water is that good.

Joanna: Okay.

Hallie: Yeah, generally warm water is good. If it’s something that has more dirt on it, you can get some soap involved. I’ve had to do that with potatoes before that are a little bit crusty so I get some soap involved, but warm water will usually do the trick. Dad, did you tell me about this video of like a doctor that like had…

Chris: Yeah, it’s one of the highest viewed videos on YouTube right now. There’s this doctor that demonstrates bringing in his grocery bag and he divides up his kitchen table into two halves, the clean side and the unclean side. He puts his groceries down on the unclean side and then he’ll pick them out one by one and disinfect each piece and then put that down on the clean side. If it’s a piece of produce, then he’ll take it out and put it in the sink to wash.

Hallie: Yeah, you do small practices like that thinking about where things could have been contaminated. It’s great practice generally speaking and especially when we’re in a pandemic.

Joanna: Nice. Since we’re trying as hard as we can to not go outside and minimize our time at grocery stores or farmer’s markets or what have you, is now like the prime time to start your home garden?

Hallie: Everyone is gardening right now.

Chris: I thought everyone was making sourdough bread and watching Tiger King.

Hallie: Everyone is also making sourdough bread. My friend Emily tweeted about how to make bread. She has this amazing Twitter thread about how to make bread at the end of the world and it got picked up by like every single news outlet. It’s wild.

Joanna: That’s amazing.

Hallie: Yes, everyone’s making bread and also everyone’s gardening.

Chris: And watching Tiger King.

Hallie: Yes, apparently. I just found out about this show. I’m so behind. I just guessed it on a podcast called The Horticulturati and it’s hosted by two landscape designers and landscape architects.

Joanna: It’s called the what?

Hallie: Horticulturati. I’ll put a link in the show notes.

Joanna: Okay. That’s nice.

Hallie: Yeah, but they mentioned it they as landscapers have had a hard time getting potting soil because everyone is gardening right now.

Chris: Wow.

Joanna: That brings me to another question that somebody had. Is there something I can do like as a non-agricultural thing to help support or as a non-agriculture person to help support the agriculture industry. There was what’s it called? Victory Gardens in World War II. Is that something that you foresee or you think would be useful?

Hallie: Generally, I think gardening is a very radical act and we can do a whole podcast episode about that. Gardening is awesome.

Joanna: Wait, what do you mean by radical act? I feel like you just dig a hole and put stuff in it, right?

Hallie: No, it’s very radical to grow your own food. It’s amazing. You don’t have to be gardening though. That doesn’t have to be the thing you do. If you want to support the agricultural industry, I can put links in the show notes to some funds that are relief funds for farm workers and for hospitality workers. I would try and buy from local farmers, try and plug into what’s happening in your own city locally and just try to support your community and give back where you can. Here in Austin there are some two organizations that have started giving grants out to farmers in need after the virus and I think that that’s happening in other cities too, but you’re going to have to go and find that yourself. But yeah, I would try and support in whatever way you can, your local food system and your local food community.

Joanna: Doubling back to supporting your local community as well as gardening. If you are gardening, can we still go to nurseries? Is that cool? If so, should I go to home depot or should I go to a local smaller nursery? Are they going to be open? Like what?

Chris: Don’t go anywhere. Stay home.

Hallie: Pretty much. Most nurseries have closed for the time being at least. If your local nursery might not, I would still recommend staying home. There are a lot of delivery options. Some local nurseries have also switched to doing a drive through option where you can order online or you can order over the phone and you can just go drive through in the car.

Joanna: Amazing.

Hallie: Yeah, I would try and find an option. If you want to garden, try and support local businesses. Try and also minimize your contact with other people. If that is you driving through a nursery, maybe that’s it. If they haven’t switched to something like that, I would maybe still order online even if you’re not supporting a local business. There are small businesses that are still selling starter plants online so you can still be supporting a small business. Yeah, that’s what I would do.

Joanna: Okay, cool. Find a way to support a small business. They are the most likely to be hurting first, right?

Hallie: Yeah, to be clear, everyone will be hurting. I don’t want to minimize the plight of large companies but also well.

Chris: Everyone will be hurting. I want to double back to something as well because you said to your knowledge that the virus remained viable on inanimate objects for a few hours and I could have sworn there were a couple places where I had heard days and I think these are one of those things where I’ll definitely do some research for yourself and make sure because I bet we’re at the point where the dust hasn’t settled enough to have good information.

Hallie: Yeah, I think that’s definitely true. When you’re buying your food regardless, you should be practicing good food safety practices bagging your food. I usually use reusable bags. I’m using more of those like tiny little thin plastic bags for my produce now just because it’s more of a barrier than the reusable bags that I’ve been using which have holes in them. If you’re purchasing from a farmer or at a farmers’ market or something like that, trying to pick up stuff that’s already been pre-packaged. All of that stuff can really help. The nice thing about going to farmers’ markets is you can talk to the farmer and be like, “Hey, when you package this, what kind of food safety protocol did you have in place? Were you wearing gloves? Were you wearing a mask? Were you sanitizing? What does that look like?” You can really know more about where your food is coming from.

Chris: I never would have thought to ask someone that.

Joanna: Yeah, just talk to them from standing six feet away.

Hallie: Totally. Talk standing six feet away. You can get a ton of information about how your food was grown and handled by talking to the farmer.

Joanna: That’s very smart. Okay. Onto the chilly questions.

Hallie: Yay.

Joanna: Oh, sarcasm. Okay. How do you see this playing out in the long run for farmers and the agricultural supply chain? Not necessarily like we know that you don’t have the full data at your fingertips, but your gut reaction as somebody who’s worked in this industry and seeing how it works, how do you feel like it is going to go?

Chris: Come on Hallie, look into that crystal ball and tell the future.

Hallie: Oof. Okay. Unfortunately, I think that this is going to put a lot of small farmers out of business. It’s going to put all kinds of small businesses out of business and that includes farmers I think. There are a lot of tools that are being put together and resources that are being put together at the federal level to try and support farmers to minimize that loss as much as possible, but I still think that it will happen. The thing that I’m really hoping will happen and that personally in my work day to day, I’m hoping to be able to use this as a moment to grow from is I think that this pandemic is really underscoring what it means to have a robust and resilient and decentralized food system in a way that was really hard to explain to policy makers and to members of the public and to anyone who was intimately involved with the idea of local food and what that really means. For the grocery stores that I’m working with, their suppliers are like maybe two to three companies for produce and so if one person at that packaging plant gets sick then everyone else at the packaging plant gets sick.

Joanna: Oh my gosh.

Hallie: That labor is shut down and there’s no produce, right?

Joanna: For the grocery store is that you work with?

Hallie: Yeah, for the grocery stores I’m talking to.

Joanna: Can you find one to two places?

Hallie: Yeah.

Joanna: That is insane.

Hallie: In terms of aggregators and distributors, it’s usually like one to two companies. I think I said two to three. I think two to three is probably pretty accurate. That’s extremely fragile.

Joanna: That’s really stressing me out.

Hallie: I think seeing what it looks like to live in a world with this amount of pressure being put on it it’s becoming a lot clearer what of value it is to have local food and to have local food producers and to have like a decentralized food supply system. We don’t really know what the different points of contamination could be if you’re having food that’s handled by six different companies, but if you’re going to the farmer’s market and you’re talking to your farmer and you’re picking food up from your farmer that your farmer picked or your farmer’s farm worker picked having an option for decentralized local food supply, I think is making a much clearer why it’s important to be supporting agriculture in all of the different ways and all of the different shapes they can take. Because I also wouldn’t advocate for a 100% local food system because if we had a tornado in Austin and all of our food was local, then we would be S-O-L, but having a food system that is resilient and robust and decentralized in a way where it can be flexible and it can still support people even in a time of crisis, I think is a really important conversation to have during and after this crisis.

Joanna: Oof.

Chris: Hey, Jo. Is that all of the questions?

Hallie: Yeah, you’ve got more questions?

Joanna: I genuinely don’t know if you’ll be able to answer this last one, so I was not sure if I was going to ask it.

Chris: Bring it.

Joanna: It was how are farmers and farm workers staying safe or going to stay safe during and after this pandemic?

Hallie: What a great question!

Chris: You know given how our episode on farm worker’s rights went, I don’t know that much has changed for farm workers quite frankly. Maybe some of them, I don’t know.

Hallie: Yeah, farm workers particularly in larger agricultural systems usually live extremely remotely and they have little access to healthcare, so that is extremely dangerous especially during this time of crisis. A lot of farmers are older as well. The average age of the American farmer right now I think is 58 and that’s an average, so a lot of them are much older than that. They’re definitely an at risk population. Farmers also tend to have more respiratory issues than the average American, so they are also at risk in that way. This is definitely something that’s going to be impacting the individual people that grow your food and that move your food and get it to you to your market. Support where you can. I’m going to be posting resources in the show notes and also think about how your choices in buying are impacting how your local food system can function and not just in the time of crisis, in all times because it’s helpful for once we get to that time of crisis to have a really robust food system. It is going to be a really dangerous time for a lot of farmers and for a lot of farm workers and for a lot of just consumers, people who are eating. We’re all being impacted by this and hopefully we can all be kind and support each other and do our best to get through this together.

Joanna: Dang.

Chris: Dang indeed. Well, thank you everyone for your questions. Thank you listener for listening. Thank you for Joanna for proxying and for joining us for a great conversation.

Hallie: Yeah, thanks dad and Jo and I really quickly want to thank Maggie and Steven and Amy and Edo and Kathleen for all of your questions that made this possible.

Joanna: I did want to circle back to one thing. You were talking about how an upside of going to a farmer’s market is that you can directly talk to your supplier and ask how your food is being handled, but would that not be the same case if you had some CSA type of direct delivery system?

Hallie: Yeah, if you’re doing CSA you could email them.

Joanna: I could email them or call them or whatever.

Hallie: Delivery totally. Yeah, you can follow your farmers on Instagram. They have great Instagram usually. They’re a lot of ways to connect with your local food system and your local farmers and usually there’s a lot of good chicken pictures on there. Some lovely sunset pictures. That’s like a good staple of the farmer Instagram. Hit him up, give him some likes.

Joanna: Awesome. All right. Thank you so much Hallie for answering all of our questions and thank you to you all. I’m so excited I’m finally on this episode.

Hallie: Yeah, you’ve been on the Patreon content, but not an actual episode.

Joanna: Here I am.

Chris: Glad you’re here.

Joanna: Long time listener. First time participant. Hello.

Hallie: Thanks for listening to this mini episode of Ask One to Grow On. If you have your own questions that you’d like answered, they can be about COVID-19 or they can be more generally about agriculture, you can email us at [email protected] or post with the hashtag AskOnetoGrowOn.

[Background music].

32: Plant Propagation Transcript

Listen to the full episode.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to discuss and this week we’re focusing on plant propagation.

[Background music].

Chris: All right. How do you propagate a plant?

Hallie: So many ways.

Chris: You plant it in the ground or you cut part of it off and splice it into another plant and that’s why speciation is all just made up nonsense because you can splice all the plants with each other and create new plants.

Hallie: No.

Chris: No? You can cross breed them.

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: Okay. But the splicing, isn’t why speciation is nonsense.

Hallie: We don’t really call it splicing. We call it grafting. You basically build a plant, but it’s still two separate sides of the plant. Like you can graft a potato and a tomato together and what you have is a topato or however you like.

[Laughter].

Hallie: The bottom part grows potatoes and the top part grows tomatoes. Right.

Chris: But it’s not a hybrid.

Hallie: Yes, it grows and then it dies and that’s it. It’s not going to produce a new plant because it’s not in the genes. Basically, what just happens is the tubes connect and so they can transport water and nutrients up and down the plant.

Chris: Okay. Cool. But that’s not propagation.

Hallie: It can be part of propagation, but that’s not mostly what we’re going to be talking about. A peek behind the curtain, I taught this as a class. Big shout out to one of my previous students who took our listener’s survey.

Chris: There you go. Hey, Melissa.

Hallie: Yeah, she’ll know all of this information hopefully. I taught a class called plant propagation and I thought it would be fun to try and fit an entire semester into 35 minutes of podcast.

Chris: If you don’t know all the information by now, Melissa, you should have paid more attention in class.

Hallie:
Okay. We don’t need to drag Melissa on the podcast.

Chris: I never paid attention in class.

Hallie: Melissa was an excellent student.

Chris: I believe it.

Hallie: We have sexual propagation and asexual propagation.

Chris: It’s like hot or not.

Hallie: What?

Chris: [Laughs]. Plants that are hot for each other. Plants that just don’t care and do their own thing.

Hallie: No, we propagate plants to serve our own purposes not necessarily to serve the plant’s purposes. Most plants that we asexually propagate can propagate sexually, but there are reasons why we choose to asexually propagate it instead.

Chris: Wow.

Hallie: Because plants are living beings that have sexual cycles and reproduce via pollen and ovaries and they create seeds.

Chris: There is still some [inaudible].

Hallie: It’s just like how many, many living things operate, including plants.

Chris: When you say we choose to propagate them, asexually I feel like we’re subjugating them to our will against their preferences, even though they are plants and they don’t necessarily have preferences. I’m like, oh, we are bending these plants to our will.

Hallie: Yeah, we do that with most things. [Laughs].

Chris: That is true. We are humans. That is what we do.

Hallie: It sucks to suck.

Chris: [Laughs]. I don’t think we need to drag all of humanity in the show.

Hallie: No, I’m not dragging all of humanity. I’m like sucks to suck to like all the other living plants. Maybe you should have thought about that and then become the dominant predator, apex species or whatever.

Chris: So because they didn’t work hard enough at evolution, they just have to deal.

Hallie: Yeah, I’m just saying. It seems like we got here and we’re crushing it.

Chris: I feel like that’s a little heartless.

Hallie: Nothing’s going wrong. We’re doing a great job. We have sexual propagation. We have asexual propagation. Sexual propagation meaning seeds. That’s how we further that plant. That can include things like seed breeding, which is where we grow plants for the purpose of trying to make a seed that will grow a better plant.

Chris: Seed breeding, which we grow a seed for the purposes of trying to make a better plant.

Hallie: We grow a plant for the seed in hopes that that seed makes a better plant.

Chris: We grow a plant for the seed. Oh, so we select for a particular plant that produces the best seeds.

Hallie: Basically, sometimes we have plants that are crossbreeds or hybrids and so in that, we can be growing tomatoes, but if we’re growing like seed tomatoes, then we’re never growing those tomatoes really for the tomatoes, we’re growing them to cross pollinate them and create tomato seed.

Chris: Kind of like when your mom and I got together because we knew we would make the best children.

Hallie: Gross.

Chris: It’s not gross. It’s romantic and sweet.

Hallie: No, it’s not at all.

[Laughter].

Chris: All right. Fine whatever. We’re selecting plants to have better or more resilient seeds or we’re selecting them for some particular characteristic to qualify as whatever good is for what we need it.

Hallie: Right. We breed plants. Oftentimes when we do that, it’s seed breeding that we do it for. There are different components of a seed. You have the seed coat, you have the endosperm, the cotyledon and the embryo. I feel like we’ve talked about this on the podcast before.

Chris: Those are all words that I remember. Cotyledon is the weirdest one. I do remember you talking about it.

Hallie: Inside of the seed, there’s a little embryo, which is what the plant becomes, but there’s also these cotyledons that become what you first see, when the little embryo pops up. It’s like two or one leaves. They’re not really leaves because they’re inside of the seed. They’re like a starchy reserve so that when the embryo starts to grow, it’s able to like pull starches out so it has energy. This is helpful to understand the different parts of a seed because sometimes we have to treat seed in order for it to grow.

Chris: Are these what microgreens are?

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: I remembered another thing. I’m so happy for me.

Hallie: That must have been when we talked about it. If you want to go back, we talked about microgreens on the last superfood episode.

Superfood four I think we talked about microgreens and that involves talking about cotyledons, but around the seed is a seed coat. Sometimes when we are planting seeds, in order to propagate a new plant, we have to treat the seeds because there is something that makes it impossible for the embryo to actually grow. We do things like imbibing the seed, which is where you soak them in water.

Chris: It’s not about just getting them drunk.

Hallie: We don’t get them drunk. We can soak them in water by imbibing them. We can also stratify them, which is when we put them in the freezer for a couple of days and that will break a seed’s dormancy or we can also what we call scarify the seeds, which is where you basically file them down with like a nail file or something.

Chris: I’m so confused right now.

Hallie: Why?

Chris: I’m accepting what you’re telling me, right? We’re talking about getting the seed to start growing, one of the ways is soaking them in water.

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: They don’t drown obviously.

They just like the water and the other way you said it’s freezing them, which I associate freezing with going dormant, not with triggering production.

Hallie: Right. Basically, what you’re mimicking there is if you’re a plant and you produce fruit in the spring time and it’s lovely and it’s warm outside and the seeds go in the ground, you don’t really want those seeds to start growing until the next spring usually. So you’re basically mimicking a winter time period so they have a freezing. Then when that freeze ends, they’re like, okay, great. It’s warm now I will start to grow. Because if it was still cold or if it was still warm and there hadn’t been cold, these seeds are like, wait, it’s going to get cold and it’s going to get rough for me. I got to wait it out.

Chris: The freezer mimics the weather.

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: Dang!

Hallie: The seeds are not that smart. They can’t notice that it’s inside of a freezer.

Chris: Fair enough. Then taking a nail file to them.

Hallie: Yeah, scarification. Sometimes we just put them in a big tumbler and we tumble them around so that the seed coats get scratched.

Chris: Like a rock polisher.

Hallie: Yeah, but basically this is mimicking being eaten and then pooped.

Chris: Wow.

Hallie: Sometimes you actually have to ferment seeds to make them grow, which is wild. But usually, if you have some kind of seed with a really hard seed coat, it’s either meant to be a mammal, grabs it and then chews it and then spits it back out or it goes through the digestive system and there are a lot of acids in there that can break that seed coat down and then it’s ready to be.

Chris: Got it. The nail file mimics the process by which the seed coat gets broken down. There are seeds which in the wild go through a fermentation process before they start growing. Is that correct or is that scaring as well?

Hallie: Yeah, fermentation is kind of similar. That’s basically mimicking going through a digestive track where you are exposed to a lot of high acids.

Chris: Cool.

Hallie: That is most of what I have for sexual propagation.

We can talk about asexual next, which is the wild stuff. Sexual is the most common and the cheapest, but there’s tons more to talk about, but that’s the basics. If you’re gardening, always check your seed packet in case you need to imbibe, scarify, or stratify your seeds.

Chris: It’s like the opposite of the human world where the sexual reproduction is the wild stuff.

Hallie: No, dad. If we asexually propagate humans, that’s the wild stuff.

Chris: Oh, that’s fair. That’s a good point. I never thought about that. How would that look? I don’t think that this podcast is the forum for that kind of speculation, but now I’m curious. I mean, cloning, I guess.

Hallie: That’s exactly cloning. Precisely, exactly. Yes.

Chris: Wait, is asexual propagation in plants cloning?

Hallie: Yeah.

Chris: Oh.

[Laughter].

Chris: All right. Well, you know where things get really wild?

Hallie: Where?

Chris: In the break.

Hallie: Hey, let’s go.

[Background music].

Hallie: I have some excellent news. I would like to very much thank a very new brand new starfruit patron, Patrick.

Chris: Hello, Patrick.

Hallie: Welcome to our wonderful podcast family.

Chris: Welcome. We are so happy to have you along with starfruit patrons, Vikram, Lindsay, Mama Casey and Shianne.

Hallie: Thank you guys so much for all of your support. If you would like to talk with us, our amazing starfruit patrons, all of the rest of the One to Grow On community, you can jump in our Discord group or our Facebook group where we are posting lots of memes and jokes and plant facts and plant questions. So many plant questions.

Lots of houseplant support, gardening support, plant ID, all these wonderful things you can find. You can either go to onetogrowonpod.com/discord for the Discord group or onetogrowonpod.com/group for the Facebook group.

Chris: Facts, fun, memes like dandelions.

Hallie: Yes, come join us. We would love to talk with you.

Chris: Also in March, we’re going to do things a little differently.

Hallie: March is national agriculture month here in the US and we are partnering up with three amazing food and farming podcasts to bring you a little bit of different content. We’re going to be airing some of their episodes so you can learn more about their shows and how amazing they are. We’re going to be talking about this a lot on social media, so you can connect to other very cool people online who are talking about agriculture and food in very fun and interesting ways and doing amazing stuff. We’re focusing on indie producers, so it’s going to be a lot of people who this is their passion, just like me and dad. They really are trying to bring the very best stuff. You can look forward to that. The next episode is technically just at the end of February, but that is when we will start and then the two episodes in March will also be part of this. Until April though, if you want to connect with us, we’re going to be on social media and we’re going to be on our Discord and Facebook, so come join us at onetogrowonpod.com/discord or slash group for the Discord and Facebook group, respectively.

Chris: In April, we’ll be back on the air. But now it’s back to the episode.

[Background music].

Hallie: Dad, do you have a nature of fact for us?

Chris: I do. All right. The past few weeks I’ve been obsessed with this new video, which is not plant related, but it is nature related. It’s about the sun.

Hallie: Oh, I love the sun.

Chris: I love the sun too. I guess it is plant related because we can’t have plants without the sun.

Hallie: It’s everything related. We couldn’t have anything without the sun.

Chris: That’s true. But the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope from the national observatory produced the highest resolution video and photos of the sun ever. The video is mesmerizing and you’ve got to check it out. We’ll have a link in the show notes, if you haven’t seen it already. It’s just about a 15 second video of what looks sort of like this hot boiling gas and each of these little boiling blobs on the video is about the size of Texas. They’re massive. Well, the sun is massive and each of these little cells is massive. We see this big white dot in the sky.

Hallie: Right.

Chris: This is just sort of this close up, detailed movement of this plasma gas and fire out here on this giant ball of fire in space. It’s amazing.

Hallie: That sounds so cool.

Chris: It’s really cool. We’ll have a link in the show notes if you haven’t checked it out. We’re glad that you’re here and excited about agriculture. Be excited about space too. Space is cool.

Hallie: Spaces is so cool.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: Tara tarata ta! Nature fact!

Chris: Asexual reproduction. Production without sex.

Hallie: Oh, yes. Exactly or as you put it earlier cloning. This happens naturally in nature, which is where we got the idea to do it.

Chris: Real quick, the banana is a clone. All bananas are clones of one another. Is that something we did or is that something that the banana did itself?

Hallie: Bananas do do that. We basically selected for the banana we wanted and then propagated that a lot.

Chris: Got it.

Hallie: But bananas also do do that.

Chris: Sorry, still reading my book. I got to know.

Hallie: Examples of natural occurrences of asexual propagation includes things like tubers, rhizomes, bulbs, corms, tuberous roots, keikis.

Chris: That’s a lot of words. I feel like I know what a tuber is.

Hallie: Example?

Chris: That’s a potato.

Hallie: Exactly, that is a potato.

Chris: I feel like I know what a root is, a part of a plant. I don’t know why it’s in this example, but you also said corm, which is not corn.

Hallie: No, corms.

Chris: Keikis.

Hallie: Rhizomes and bulbs.

Chris: I have a friend named Keiki.

Hallie:  [Laughs].

Chris: I don’t know what it is here. We talked about rhizomes once.

Hallie: Which is?

Chris: It’s a kind of root sort of.

Hallie: Modified stem tissue.

Chris: I almost said modified group, modified stem tissue, but it’s usually underground, right? It shoots out and new things sprout out of it.

Hallie: It’s either right below or right on top of the ground. It’s like what grass has. That’s rhizomes. Bulbs example is like onions, irises, garlic. Those are bulbs.

Chris: Your grandmother used to get bulbs all the time and grow them, tulips.

Hallie: Corms are very similar to bulbs. We’ll just say that basically they’re the same as bulbs. Tubers roots, tubers, meaning akin to a tuber. They’re slightly different because technically they’re root tissue, whereas tubers are stem tissue. But other than that, they’re very similar.

Chris: Like bubotubers. I don’t know. Harry Potter reference, anyway.

Hallie: Do you know how we propagate potatoes?

Chris: We put them under the sink until they sprout little leaves on them.

Hallie: Basically, yeah.

Chris: Wait, really?

Hallie: Well, kind of, but not really. On potatoes, you have the little eyes, which is where if you leave them out for too long, they’ll start to grow. You can just take like a sharp knife and cut those eyes out and you leave them for a bit of time. Sometimes you put some sulfur powder on them and then you plant them and they grow.

Chris: That sounds so violent.

Hallie: Why?

Chris: You cut their eyes out.

Hallie: You cut their eyes out.

Chris: You cut their eyes out then you put some sulfur on them and then they grow. Is it pure sulfur or is it a mineral like a salt?

Hallie: It’s like a mineral salt yeah. You don’t always put it on there depending on how wet it is. The sulfur can help prevent bacterial infections if it gets really wet, but it’s not always necessary. You also do have things like keikis. Keiki is specifically a term for orchids, but it’s basically what we call an adventitious root. We have it on other things too. Have you ever seen like a spider plant? Do you know what a spider plant is?

Chris: You have said so many things that I just don’t know about. I’ve seen an orchid. I did not know they were clones of each other.

Hallie: Well, they’re not always. They do have flowers and so they can grow seeds.

Chris: I know you said something that sounded like advantageous.

Hallie: Adventitious roots. Have you seen a spider plant before? Do you know a spider plant?

Chris: I don’t remember.

Hallie: Spider plants have these long thin leaves, but they also shoot out little babies. They’re very common.

[Laughter].

Chris: They’ve got little leaves. A little baby is flying out.

Hallie: Pretty much. They’re a very common houseplant. If you Google a picture of them, you’ve got to have seen them somewhere, but they are a very common plant that is very obvious. They have adventitious root tissue. Basically, you have above ground plant stuff and they start to grow roots in hopes that they will take root somewhere.

Chris: The tissue that’s above the ground grows the roots and hopes that the roots will find the ground again. That is adventitious.

Hallie: For the spider plants, how they do this is you have a one big, main plant and sometimes they will flower and grow seed, but they prefer to grow colonially so they’ll shoot out these little babies and these little stands that go like, boom! It’s still attached to the plant, but on the top part of the babies are leaves. Then on the bottom there’s a little bit of root tissue.

If you shoot the baby out and it lands on the ground, it starts to grow on its own.

Chris: Cool.

Hallie: That’s what adventitious root tissue is. When we are propagating plants for our uses, oftentimes we will take cuttings. A good example of this is the potatoes, like we were talking about. You just cut them up and you’re basically separating them and creating a new plant from a smaller part of a plant. But we can also create plants from cuttings by inducing root growth. The same way that it happens naturally with these keikis and these spider plants. We can take a cutting of something like a pothus ivy and then induce root growth. You did that remember with Jerry?

Chris: Yes, I took the leaf. I believe you said it was above the nodule.

Hallie: Node. You took I think it was two nodes of pothus plant.

Chris: I put that in water. How did that induce because I didn’t do anything?

Hallie: Right.

Chris: When you say induce root growth that makes me think that I should be doing something.

Hallie: Oftentimes, that is how it works. Pothus ivy is just very happy to just do whatever.

They just kind of do their own thing. With many plants, you have to add some kind of hormone. There are five major hormones that plants have. One of them is called oxygen and oxygen controls root growth. If you take a piece of a plant and you put a little oxygen on there, then it’s more likely to grow some roots for you because you’re kind of signaling with these hormones like, hey, here’s the place for the roots.

Chris: Does the oxygen have yolks?

Hallie: Oh my God!

[Laughter].

Hallie:
That was the worst joke you’ve ever made.

Chris: You said oxen. I thought about, babe, the blue ox out, plowing the field because you also said induce root growth and it made me think of Pitocin for inducing labor. But I guess in the broadest sense, the concept is not dissimilar.

Hallie: I guess in the very broadest of senses.

Chris: You’re giving some sort of hope hormone to get things going.

Hallie: That’s very true.

If you would like to do cutting at home of any plants, we advise that you use a sharp knife. We meaning like the larger plant community I guess. You want to use a sharp knife because one, it’s safer for you. Two, you’re less likely to have any issues with bacterial infection or fungal infection or something like that if your plant is less wounded if you get a nice sharp cut. It’s very similar to people. If you use a rusty old knife to do a surgery, it’s not going to be as good as if you have a clean sharp knife so you want a clean, sharp knife. You want to cut the base of your cutting at 45 degrees. This maximizes the area of exposed stem tissue on the inside gooey bits that touch rooting hormone. If you cut at 45 degrees, you have more surface area than if you cut it straight across so you get more rooting hormone contact. You also give it more room to build up starches and build up what we call callus tissue, which is the most dramatic. Meaning able to differentiate into other plant organs.

Chris: Got to maximize the gooey parts.

Hallie: Maximize gooey parts by cutting it 45 degrees for many reasons.

Chris: Cool.

Hallie: You can cut many different things. You can also layer.

Chris: What do you mean?

Hallie: Layering is also kind of like the spider plant. Here’s what you do. Imagine this.

Imagine you have a bush. You can picture it?

Chris: Yeah.

Hallie: You have a bush. You take one of the stems. About midway up the stem, you take all the leaves off for like a two inch section. You take the stem, you pull it down to the ground and you bury that part that you took the leaves off of under the ground.

Chris: You don’t break the stem off. You just kind of bend it down.

Hallie: Bury it and then you let it grow for like two months. Then you cut it off and it’s got the roots on it.

Chris: The parts where the leaves come out turn into parts where the roots come out, I guess.

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: Wow.

Hallie: You can put oxygen on that part when you bend it down and put it under the ground to tell them this is the roots area now.

Chris: Yolk docksin.

Hallie: Oh my God.

Chris: Then you cut the top of the stem off and then that sticks up and becomes a new bush.

Hallie: It’s like a whole separate plant.

Chris: Wow! That’s amazing.

Hallie: It’s very cool. You can also do air layering, which is where if you have a tree you cut into the tree to wound it and then you put a little oxygen on there and then you put some potting soil that is damp on it and then just wrap it in saran wrap and wait a couple of weeks. Then you can just cut the whole branch off.

Chris: Just to be clear, this only works with plants.

Hallie: It would not work with people.

Chris: Right. Can’t. Never mind.

Hallie: No.

Chris: [Laughs].

Hallie: That’s layering. It’s very similar to cutting except for the plant stays attached until the end of the process. The last step is cutting it off. We used to do have micropropagation.

Chris: Oh boys. Like microgreens only with propagation not greens?

Hallie: It’s wild. Basically, this is in a very controlled, clean room situation. You’re in like a lab.

Chris: Not the wild kind of wild, but the crazy kind of wild.

Hallie: Like the crazy kind of wild where it’s just like wild. It’s like buck wild. You take a very, very small part of a plant. It can be leaf tissue. It can be stem tissue. It’s not usually root tissue because it’s harder to get leaves to grow from roots than it is to get roots to grow from leaves and you have to have both parts to get a whole plant. Basically, you take a very small amount of it. Probably, if you were to imagine if you did a hole puncher on a leaf, like that amount.

Chris: Wow. Just a tiny bit of plant tissue.

Hallie: A small bit of plant tissue and you basically put it in a grow room and it grows a whole new plant.

Chris: You don’t have to do anything to it?

Hallie: You do. You put it in algae and the algae usually has some oxygen. It’s basically like in a little Petri dish. Then once it’s grown up a little bit where it’s big enough where you’re able to pull it out, then you can pull it out and put it in some potting soil. Then you put that in a grow room with lights and water.

Chris: I feel like the oxygen would have to be really tiny to fit in the Petri dish.

Hallie: No, this is not a good joke.

[Laughter].

Hallie: I’m not engaging with this.

Chris: All right. You take a hole punch, punch a hole in a leaf. You put the little piece of plant confetti in the Petri dish and you make a new plant from it. That is pretty wild.

Hallie: It’s buck wild. It’s very cool. We do it a lot for science. Sometimes we do it for woody plants where you have a very high market value because it’s expensive to have grow rooms and stuff like that. You also need much more specialized labor. You could probably layer a bush. You understand the process. You could go out berry part of a branch and get any plant. But to work in a lab and to really handle those chemicals, it’s a lot of infrastructure. You need specialized labor. It’s very expensive. We do it for science. We do it for things that are more expensive so that you can afford to spend more, to get like really clean, good plants.

Chris: I have two thoughts. One is this means in that tiny bit of plant, there’s enough information for an entire new plant.

Hallie: Yes, there’s a concept for that actually it’s called total potency. It’s the idea that from one cell you could grow a whole plant.

Chris: That’s an amazing term. That plant has got total potency. That’s awesome. From one cell.

Hallie: That’s the concept.

Chris: My other thought is I assume it has, but has this not worked for the American chestnut?

Hallie: No, the problem with the American chestnut is not that we can’t grow more chestnut trees. It’s that if we do grow more Chestnut trees, then there is fungus that will then still get to them. It’s more an issue of breeding with the chestnuts than just growing more of them. This fungal blight is just so ubiquitous. We’re having a hard time getting resistance into the actual species.

Chris: Got it. Real cool. Now we know how to make new plants.

Hallie: Do you feel educated?

Chris: I do feel educated.

Hallie: Do you feel like you should have taken a whole semester to learn all of this?

Chris: I don’t know. Melissa, let us know what you think. I bet you knew all of this stuff already and I bet everyone in plant propagation this semester can listen to this episode and get A’s.

Hallie: Maybe so.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: Knock, knock.

Chris: Who’s there?

Hallie: Petri dish.

Chris: Petri dish who?

Hallie: There’s oxygen in your Petri dish.

Chris: You said mine was a bad joke?

Hallie: I’ll leave the jokes to you. Fine.

[Laughter].

Hallie: It was off the cuff, okay?

Chris: So were mine.

[Background music].

Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.

Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website, onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].

aerial view of agricultural fields

31: Water – Modern Challenges Transcript

Listen to the full episode.

Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.

Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production that confuses a lot of people and try to get Hallie to explain it to us and this week we are talking about water again.

[Background music].


Hallie: Today is a follow-up from last week, we were talking about the history of irrigation where some of this technology came from. Today, now we’re talking about where we are now.

Chris: Yeah, to sort of sum up last week.

Hallie: Two weeks ago.

Chris: To sum up two weeks ago, you basically either have rain or you have irrigation or you have no food. If you have something like drip irrigation, then you can irrigate more efficiently so you can get more crops out of the same amount of water. This kind of stuff sort of grew up all over the world and was innovated and improved on in various places by various people.

Hallie: Yes, my favorite type of irrigation is topography based irrigation.

Chris: Which sounds amazing.

Hallie: It’s extremely cool. Today, where is water being used? The highest total water withdrawal countries are the US, China and India.

Chris: Question.

Hallie: Yes.

Chris: When you say water withdrawal that means you’re withdrawing water from some sort of local resource and using it for agriculture?

Hallie: It’s basically just freshwater use broad spectrum.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: That includes things other than agriculture. If you expand that to consider your extra no water footprint, so water withdrawal, meaning just like the water that you use in that country, not considering kind of the water footprint of your import export market. If you expand to include all the things that you import and how that uses water, then Europe and the Middle East are also added to that list of the higher water users.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: That’s helpful to think about whenever we’re talking about resource use, because a lot of resource intense products and produce are being created in developing economies and then consumed in Europe and in America and other larger, more affluent countries.

Chris: We import a lot of our stuff.

Hallie: Yeah, it takes a lot of resources. If we just break it down by which countries are using the most resources, we’ll oftentimes see emerging economies using a lot of resources, but they’re using a lot of resources to create products that are then being consumed here in wealthier nations.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: Looking at crops, according to an FAO, 2017 report, it takes between 0.5 and 1.5 tons of water to produce a pound of cereal crop, so that’s things like wheat or rice.

Chris: That’s mind blowing.

Hallie: Yeah, it’s like a lot. It’s weird to think of water in weight, but it’s very helpful because we’re also thinking about the food in weight if you think about it comparatively.

Chris: Right.

Hallie: For beef, that number is about 7.5 tons of water per pound of beef, which is obviously exponentially larger, which is one of the reasons why meat production in general is much more resource intensive.

Chris: Yes.

Hallie: The FAO estimates that between 2,000 and 5,000 liters of water, which is about 530 to about 1,320 gallons of water are needed to produce a person’s daily food.

Chris: If I have like some bacon and eggs for breakfast and maybe some coleslaw and quonia salad for lunch and then say a cheeseburger or steak or something, and some salad for dinner, producing those meals that I ate took between 2,000 and 5,000 liters of water.

Hallie: Yeah, I mean, if that’s your breakdown, then it’s probably much closer to 5,000 liters than if you were like a vegetarian kind of diet would be much closer to the 2000 liter.

Chris: Wow. It’s mind blowing.

Hallie: We use a lot of water.

Chris: That’s true.

Hallie: Even though we’re using all this water, irrigation is declining in the US and other places as well. A lot of places are looking at using less water in irrigation. In Texas, irrigation is down 10%.

Chris: Okay. Because?

Hallie: Because of droughts and over usage and climate change.

Chris: There’s just not the water to move from one place to another.

Hallie: There’s just not the water and so a lot of farmers and renters are seeing this pressure. They’re seeing water is either becoming more expensive or they can really see that it’s becoming less available. Droughts are becoming more intense and so they are needing to irrigate less to utilize that resource in a smarter way. For farmers particularly, this issue is twofold. We’re overdrawing our aquifers, so a lot of our irrigation water comes from groundwater and then we’re also often seeing a decrease in precipitation, whether that’s rain water, or snow melt.

Chris: We say our irrigation is coming from groundwater. Is that specifically a Central Texas thing?

Hallie: No, that’s globally. A lot of irrigation is from groundwater. 38% of our irrigated land globally is going to be irrigated by groundwater and then 62% is irrigated by surface water.

That surface water is going to be lakes and rivers that are filled up by snow melt and filled up by rain, so you’re seeing we’re overdrawing our groundwater aquifers. That 38% of global irrigated agriculture is having less water that they can reliably pump up from our underground caves. Then the 62% of global irrigated agriculture that relies on surface water, we’re seeing less precipitation, so our rivers are going down, lakes are going down.

Chris: Got it. Water, water. Not so much everywhere.

Hallie: Not so much. When we’re looking at aquifer recharge, which is here in the US a really big part of agriculture and as you mentioned here in Texas, we get a lot of our agricultural irrigation water and also a lot of our drinking water from our underground aquifers, we’re seeing recharge of those aquifers actually go down. The recharge of the southern aquifers in the southern part of the US is going down by 10% to 20%.

Chris: That’s presumably because of less precipitation.

Hallie: It’s hard for us to figure out. Models don’t have the capacity to fully understand why this is happening, but we’re definitely seeing it. Scientists are suggesting that it could be from lack of precipitation, but also due to increased concrete, right? If you have concrete, concrete is not very permeable. Your water cannot go down and soak through the concrete to get down to the aquifer.

Chris: Regardless, it doesn’t sound good.

Hallie: Definitely not. Because the climate is also warming, we’re getting less snow and we are also seeing less frequent rain or less predictable rain. If there’s snow melt that is feeding surface water or aquifers, then we’re not seeing that either.

Chris: I would imagine that would affect the topographical irrigation systems as well.

Hallie: Oh, definitely. Yeah, in the last episode, we talked about a really cool irrigation system that has existed for thousands of years that relies on snow melt from a mountain and if that mountain is heating up and getting less snow then that’s going to disrupt that irrigation system. I don’t know if climate change has yet disrupted that particular irrigation system, but yeah, we are also seeing of course, rising sea levels, and that will continue to happen as the temperature of the globe continues to rise. With rising sea levels, you also see the potential for salient of groundwater, so you can get salt in your groundwater.

Chris: I was about to ask you what salient was, but you just answered that question and salt in the groundwater presumably makes it unusable, or at least harder to make usable.

Hallie: It makes it about as usable as saltwater is, which is we can go through and purify it, but it’s extremely expensive and it requires a lot of energy.

Chris: Yeah, that sounds like the wrong direction to go.

Hallie: For sure. It’s not great.

On a lot of different fronts, we are facing a lot of issues with our irrigation just with drinking water as well, right? This is water that we need to live and there are a lot of challenges that we’re facing because of climate change and because of over use of our resources. There are some solutions. In the next half, we’ll talk about some, but there’s some that just like farmers are implementing. We talked about using irrigation less. This comes back to soil health, my favorite topic.

Chris: How is soil health related to irrigation?

Hallie: Well, if you have a healthy soil, then the soil particles hold onto themselves better, and they’re also able to hold onto water better, so you’re actually able to use the water that you do get from rain or from irrigation in a more efficient way. You lose less of your water.

Chris: Okay. When we talked about drip irrigation, last episode, you said that you don’t necessarily use less water. You’re just able to use the water more efficiently. With the healthy soil, is it the same thing, or are you actually able to use less water?

Hallie: That’s a good question. With drip irrigation and soil health, they’re kind of polar opposites. Not polar opposites, that’s kind of rude. Some farmers would get on me for saying that. Some farmers do implement soil health practices and also use drip irrigation, but it can be problematic because you have other things living in your soil that also need water.

If you’re only watering a very small part of your soil, because you’re just watering where that drip emitter is, and the rest of your soil is left, basically dry and fallow, then you’re not really feeding your soil ecosystem. It can be complicated. Usually, if you have a healthier soil, what we see is that that field is going to be more resilient to drought and will need less irrigation.

Chris: Okay. That makes sense.

Hallie: Sometimes your yield will go down and you’re not going to be growing as many plants, but you will not rely on irrigation in the same way if that makes sense.

Chris: It does.

Hallie: Cool.

Chris: All right. Soil health is a complicated topic, but episode health not so much.

Hallie: [Laughs].

Chris: For that, we need a break.

Hallie: Let’s go.

[Background music].

Chris: Hallie, do you feel healthy?

Hallie: It’s the doctor’s orders we’re in the break.

Chris: We are in the break.

Hallie: I would like to thank our starfruit level patrons, Vikram, Mama Casey, Lindsay, and Shianne. Thank you guys so much. You light up my life.

Chris: You do and you light up the podcast.

Hallie: You do, honestly. You literally do light up the podcast.

Chris: It’s true.

Hallie: You keep the lights of the podcast on.

Chris: Thank you to you and to all of our other Patreon listeners.

Hallie: This is your last chance. If you’re interested in helping the show out by providing some feedback, we have a listener survey. It will be closing on the 31st of January. That’s pretty soon from when you’re listening to this. If you haven’t yet, please take a sec.

It takes less than 10 minutes to go head over. You can go to onetogrowonpod.com/survey, or you can just go to onetogrowonpod.com and hit the survey button.

Chris: Yeah, just click the survey link. You can do it anonymously. You can tell us what you like, what you don’t like. It’ll help us make better content. Better content, better show. Better show, better you.

Hallie: Totally. We ask for a little bit of feedback about the show, what you like, what you don’t like, what other kinds of show you listen to. All in all, this will mean a lot to our ability to produce this show better and easier and make it more enjoyable for everyone, including me and dad, including you as a listener. Again, onetogrowonpod.com/survey. Dad mentioned you can do it anonymously. You can also leave your name and email and you get entered to win a very cool sticker pack.

Chris: We got some great stickers.

Hallie: Extremely cool stickers. Onetogrowonpod.com/survey, less than 10 minutes.

Chris: Back to the episode.

[Background music].


Hallie: Okay. In the first half, we talked about a lot of problems and issues, and I thought that it would be nice to do the second half talking about some solutions and how thinking about solutions work. Peek behind the curtain. We did a lot of research for this episode. It was too much research and we cannot fit it all into one episode because there are a lot of people doing this really important work trying to think about the current and upcoming water crises. I thought I would specifically talk about some of the solutions for the part of the US that I know the most about, which is the Southwest from California over to Texas.

Chris: Got some good news, bad news going on. Oh no bad news. Good news.

Hallie: [Laughs]. Yeah, kind of.

Chris: All right.

Hallie: I pulled a lot for this part of the episode from a report that was written by Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth Stanton called climate change in the Southwest water crisis and I pulled from this because I thought that they summarized the problem with agriculture and water use very well. In this report, they propose a couple of different solutions. I’m specifically going to look at the third one because the third one is what they say in the report. The only one that makes sense, which is planned conservation. The other ones are like pull water from somewhere else or make water somehow don’t know, or we just run out of water and oops, now we can’t use water anymore. Then we’ll be conserving not plants, just because we have no more water.

They’re saying that this option of we plan on conserving water so that we have water in the future is the only way to go, which sounds very reasonable.

Chris: They gave us five options, but then they said really, option three is the way to go.

Hallie: Yeah, which is planning on conserving and then doing so. In terms of ways to plan for conservation, they talk about energy, urban and agriculture, but this is an agriculture show, so let’s talk about agriculture. In agriculture, in specifically the Southwest of the US which is the area that I know the most about, one third of the water in that region goes to it’s the least valuable crop. Guess what that is?

Chris: Turf grass.

Hallie: No, hay.

Chris: Hay. This is why beef takes so much water. It’s because you got to water the hay to give to the beef.

Hallie: Right. Beef and dairy use a lot of hay. Hay does not go for very much on the market, but you do use a lot of water, especially in the Southwest.

Chris: I thought hay was for horses.

Hallie: Well, it is also for horses. You don’t eat a lot of horses.

[Laughter].

Chris: Oh, okay. I didn’t go there.

Hallie: This was put together by people who have a background in economics, so they mark that off as a good thing. I, with the more environmental background would say, perhaps this is something to consider. We should be growing this hay, but then they go on to say like, oh, but we feed that to cows and cows make a lot of money, so that’s fine. But they say that there are other crops that we grow in the Southwest where farmers could actually make more money selling the water than actually putting it on food and then selling the food.

Chris: The water is more valuable with the crop and it probably doesn’t take as much work.

Hallie: Right. Exactly. But there’s not an option for farmers to sell water. It’s not an option.

Chris: Why is it not an option?

Hallie: Because that’s not how water markets work. Pretty much anywhere in the US and in the Southwest in most states, how it works is farmers and municipalities pay a fee to utilize the water, whether it’s surface water or groundwater. Sometimes if it’s ground water, farmers don’t have to pay any kind of fee to use that water.

But the fee for farmers is significantly lower than the fee for municipalities. Farmers are using this water and it does have a value both intrinsically and technically it has a monetary value, but farmers one, they’re not paying per gallon, they’re paying a fee. Two, they’re being much less than people in urban environments or peri-urban environments pay for that same water.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: In this report, they cite the statistic that eliminating these crops that are not basically worth the water that they’re grown with. Eliminating those from the agricultural landscape would lower agricultural water use by one quarter.

Chris: Hold the phone.

Hallie: Yeah, by 25%

Chris: Wait, eliminating those crops completely.

Hallie: Not eliminating them from our diets, but eliminating them from being grown in like California and Utah and Nevada. Places where one, they don’t have a lot of water. Two, these crops that do need a lot of water are being grown by being irrigated with water that they don’t really have. Saying instead of growing these very water intensive crops, like peas in Utah, instead they could be grown in like Guatemala where they don’t really have as much of a water shortage.

Chris: You’re not talking about eliminating hay.

Hallie: Well, they’re not talking about it. I would love to talk about it, but nobody really wants to talk about it. [Laughs].

Chris: Okay. But there are some crops that take a lot of water that we don’t need to grow here and we’re talking about eliminating those.

Hallie: Right. Actually, the water itself is worth more than the eventual crops because they just don’t go for that much on them. They’re not that valuable of crops.

Chris: Got it.

Hallie: This is like one option for saving a lot of money in the agricultural industry and also saving a lot of water because while would reduce water use in the agriculture industry, in this region of the US by 25%, it would only decrease the amount of profits in the ag industry by 5%. That would be an option. But when we really think about it that is at the crux. I know that that was very convoluted and kind of confusing, but that’s the crux of at least here in the US the issue with water and food, because we are running into a shortage of water because if you make the water more expensive, so that it’s clear to farmers that are like, oh, I’m growing this food, but this water is worth more than the food that I’m trying to grow with it so I just won’t use this water, then the food that is still worth it becomes more expensive for the end users.

Who ends up getting punished? Farmers and poor people, but we’re still conserving water. Does that make sense? The fundamental issue is how we value water, because water is so intrinsically important. We don’t want to make it more expensive, but because it’s not expensive, everyone can use it very cheaply and so we waste and pollute it.

Chris: You want to make it more expensive to punish farmers and poor people.

Hallie: No, I don’t.

[Laughter].

Chris: Okay. I’m trying to follow. If we make the water more expensive, they’ll use less.

Hallie: Right. But then food will be more expensive and farmers will be making less money. Also, people will not be able to buy food as easily because it will become more expensive. It’s not a good policy solution, right?

Chris: It’s a terrible idea.

Hallie: But when we’re thinking through, like, how do we use less water? Because agriculture uses so much like we talked about in the first half, how?

Chris: Of the five ideas, this is the one that they said, “Hey, this is our best shot at saving water.”

Hallie: Well, they didn’t say specifically, make water more expensive. They said we need to figure out how to make farmers who are growing these crops that you use so much water and are not getting them that much benefit. They are not making that much money. We need to figure out a way to help farmers not do that. Farmers need to be using less water. We don’t want to make it more expensive, which is usually the economic answer. How do we do it? Fundamentally, that’s the thing that people have been coming back to for like 20 years because people have seen this on the horizon. They’ve said like, oh my God, we don’t have so much fresh water. Farmers are using a lot of it, but like that’s the crux of it.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: I know we talked about solutions and that sounds another problem and it can miss. That’s a really hard problem to solve, but since we’re also talking about policy and water, I thought I would talk about my experience doing agricultural water policy.

Chris: When did you do the agricultural water policy?

Hallie: Well, I’m currently doing it right now or I’m trying to. We haven’t actually done anything related to policy yet, but I lead currently, a policy group where we’re trying to find ways for Texas farmers to use water more efficiently.

Chris: Cool.

Hallie: I thought I would talk about that a little bit. We are running a group that is focused on making it easier for farmers and ranchers in Texas to change their systems so that they are one, using less irrigation water, and two, are able to capture the water that falls on their land more efficiently.

Chris: You said you’re working on policies where you’re leading a policy group, so what kind of policies would help with that?

Hallie: Well, that’s part of what we’re trying to figure out. I did not realize how confusing being the leader of a policy group is until I did it. A lot of what we’re doing is throwing ideas around. Some of the ideas we have are just around education. There’s a lot of reasons farmers want to do this. Farmers are stewards of their land. For a lot of farmers, they’ve had this land for generations and they can tell that they only have so much water and so that they can use less. Oftentimes, farmers are interested in doing that. Part of it’s just around expanding education and extension funding for farmers in Texas, which would be hard. Part of it is just legally creating some kind of body to look at this further in Texas because there’s really no one in Texas, who’s doing this at the state level. Creating a task force who researches ideas, basically what we’re doing, but people who actually have government authority to go and research this things.

Chris: Not to mention that it’s their jobs and they get paid to do it.

Hallie: Well, actually, I don’t think you would get paid to do it.

I think it’s just another thing that the government asks you to do.

Chris: Got it.

Hallie: I think they pay for your snacks for the meetings and stuff like that.

Chris: There you go. Kind of like jury duty.

Hallie: [Laughs]. Yeah, except for that you’re an expert on soil and water and agriculture. Then the third thing that we’re looking at is trying to make it financially easier. Instead of making water more expensive for farmers, so they use less of it giving money to farmers to use less water basically.

Chris: Is this similar to giving money to farmers to not grow crops?

Hallie: Yeah, we talked in the previous episode. Was it the green new deal episode?

Chris: I don’t remember.

Hallie: I think it was the green new deal episode. There is a policy where farmers can put their agricultural land in a conservation program where they don’t grow crops and they just keep it as basically a wildlife habitat.

It’s kind of similar where there is a natural resource that has value to the commons and so the government gives money to farmers for taking care of that resource.

Chris: Okay.

Hallie: That’s just one of the cool things I’m doing. If anyone has any pull with people in water in Texas hit me up, we’re going to be continuing to work on this and it’s super interesting. If you want to know more about it, you can also let me know.

Chris: We started the series with some cool irrigation facts, which were super neat, but then we realized that agriculture uses a lot of water and we need water to eat and to drink. It’s just one of those realities, but there are people working on it. I remember you once told me that and maybe it was earlier in this episode or last episode, you had talked to government officials and government officials would say, yeah, there’s some really promising technology right around the corner and that doesn’t sound encouraging. But if there’s people actually doing actual work on it, that kind of does.

Hallie: Yes, I think there are actual people doing actual work. Part of it is that it’s really not very popular to talk about using less water because it means that people get less water. It’s a really hard policy to enact and also a hard one to think through. We talked through one policy solution for one specific part of one country on the planet. Like if you look globally, there are a lot of different challenges facing water systems and there’s not one solution and almost none of them are terribly popular. There are definitely people doing this work. I encourage listeners to try and learn more about water conservation in your region, because it is something that is going to become increasingly more important. I know sometimes these episodes can be frustrating for you dad, where we get to the end and I’m like, everything’s complicated and hard.

Chris: It’s true. But you know, that’s the way life is.

Hallie: It is. I hope that you learned a little bit more about water and why I’m so excited about creating policy solutions for farmers because it’s so important.

Chris: My daughter, the lady excited about creating policy solutions.

Hallie: [Laughs].

[Background music].

Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On

Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.

Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.

Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke for Free.

Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.

Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website, onetogrowonpod.com.

Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups, and even custom art created just for you.

Hallie: If you liked the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.

Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.

Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.

Chris: Bye everybody.

[Background music].