As fresh water has become scarcer than ever in the Arid West, and debt and disparities threaten to dislodge farmers from the land, I have a dream.
I have a dream of a sloooow agriculture.
By that, I mean one that wisely fosters the careful investment of the patient capital in natural processes and caring stewardship by humans to generate food and fiber over the long haul. They do so in a manner enhances rather than extracts the soil’s moisture-holding capacity and carbon reserves to assure future harvests as well.
A century plant in an Indigenous farmer’s multi-cropped milpa field has exemplified that kind of investment in the earth over last five millennia in America.
That slow-growing agave—whose very architecture and chemistry have been shaped by six million years of adaptation to arid environments—may need thirty-two years of slow growth to first bear fruit, but it produces its mass of nutritious food and durable fiber with far less water and energy than what most other crops consume to produce the same tonnage.
By sloooow gastronomy, I mean the investment in slow fermentation of stocks into delicious, nutritious foods and probiotic beverages that are then distilled and cured over many months, if not years.
Sloooow agriculture and gastronomy deplete neither the landscape, nor the workers who dwell and labor within it. By workers, I mean the humans whose very hands offer us our daily bread and drink. But I also mean the beneficial microbes at work in the soil and in the fermentation vat, or the bats and other pollinators at work licking up nectar and moving pollen from flower to flower.
We need to support a healthy work force that stays with it for the long haul, or our food and drink will become little more than cheap tricks which offer us nothing of lingering value.