Vertical gardening image | Photo by Shironosov / iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News
Note: The following is the third in a three part series of Op-Eds. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.
NOTICE – I have discussed a variety of food and water aspects in previous installments of this Op-Ed series. We will now focus on how to advance agriculture and food production here. These suggestions are based, in part, on my own observations and experience working with many countries to protect and develop agricultural production, applying sound science, in a wide range of climates with varying topography and agronomy.
Despite the sobering elements contained in the previous sections, solutions do exist. We are still the masters of our destiny, so to speak. For example, Israel and Spain have faced similar challenges with water and agriculture in their drylands, and they are surprisingly successful.
My conversations with senior officials from these two countries and seeing their amazing results have been inspiring. A large number of greenhouses using drip irrigation and many other innovations are producing incredible amounts of food and other agricultural products for use in the country and for income-generating exports.
These smart applications of technology aligned with nature have also created additional income from visitors wanting to see what’s possible and participate. This is a form of “agritourism”, which is another source of income for the community. Others can learn and be inspired by what we have created.
So let’s start with some specific ideas to consider, analyze and implement:
- Plant fruits and vegetables that can thrive in this climate. A local horticulturalist and ethnobotanist identified 29 varieties of fruits, berries and nuts that would do very well in this climate, under good supervision. We can also grow many kinds of vegetables here. Some of them will be doing very well during our winter, which means that certain types of fresh and organic produce will be available all year round.
- Create More Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): A food system that directly connects producers and consumers to locally grown produce harvested by a certain farm or groups of farms through a subscription process. The consumer agrees to withdraw or receive deliveries on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. All concerned share the risk of harvesting. We already have a local expert who has managed a CSA in Idaho and we have a successful CSA in Cedar City. More ASCs are needed.
- Create community gardens, using experts, including master gardeners, in soil preparation, crop selection, growing, harvesting and distribution of produce. Too often, good intentions and results don’t match when growing gardens. We can educate and train many people to use even backyards, common areas, and other limited places to successfully grow food and maintain good looks.
- Review Utah’s agricultural production at the regional and state level to determine any adjustments that can be made to focus production more on growing Utah food for the Utahns.
- Teach children basic horticulture and food production, with related health information. Create school gardens. Organize friendly competitions.
- Deploy greenhouse technology that can include a laptop computer to regulate all aspects of the grow. Water, fertilization and other functions are carefully controlled for maximum effect. We can use greenhouses for food and to grow native plants for our homes and community. As our capacity for growth increases, we will no longer need to purchase factories outside of southern Utah.
- Deploy vertical farming technology that has the potential to produce the same amount of food or more while using up to 90% less water. Vacant lots, empty buildings and newly constructed buildings are viable options for larger scale operations. Outdoor vertical gardens can also be created in virtually any space, as the examples on the Contemporist website show.
- Watch the documentary “The Need to Grow”.
- Create a non-political working group of carefully selected experts in sustainable and regenerative agriculture, and water experts, to assess and recommend common options for producing native foods and plants, including the treatment of selected plants for curative and medicinal purposes, among other applications. Each participant will need to look beyond their individual, organizational or professional interests to make objective recommendations to city / county leaders and investors for their decision. Transparency and opportunities for public input will be essential.
- Investigate the availability of ARPA funds to produce food for the growing number of food banks in Utah.
- Dixie State University, which appears to be Utah Tech University, may expand its life science program to include environmental sciences (ecology, plant science, and soil science).
- Raise awareness of our water and food situation and our available solutions by including statements and targets in all forward-looking documents such as city and county multi-year plans. These targets would be created and evaluated by the water district and carefully selected agricultural experts. Supporting these efforts would include putting sustainable and regenerative agriculture and water conservation on the agendas of cities and counties on a regular basis.
This series aims to promote open and constructive dialogue, analysis, and ultimately many viable recommendations to be implemented in order to be successful. Individual study by the public is encouraged, starting with the links provided. Let’s imagine and create a new type of sustainable agriculture locally. This new agricultural paradigm will result in high quality organic products, trained businesses, job creation, grocery stores and restaurants offering more attractive options, a more diverse and strengthened economy and more. This is all possible by using 50-90% less water to produce the same amount or even more food.
We are looking for visionary city and county leaders who can embrace and effectively manage the inevitable changes to come in our county, remove barriers, and find solutions and resources. These changes go well beyond infrastructure. Fortunately, my early conversations with some local leaders indicate that they are ready to listen and learn. It is a start, although in the final analysis we have to rely on the results. We are also looking for influential thought leaders, investors, vacant buildings, land, etc. We can start small and take incremental action by creating “demo farms” to show what can be created and then scale up.
We can do it. Together. It really is a win-win situation, if we have the foresight and the will to make it happen.
For comments on this letter to the editor and to learn more about growing in arid climates, visit www.ascendantagriculture.com.
Submitted by DAVID C. HATCH, Ivins. Hatch is a former person appointed by the President of the USDA as associate administrator of the US multi-billion dollar crop and livestock insurance program. He is also a hemispheric expert on agricultural risk management and has consulted widely with virtually every country in the hemisphere, including ambassadors, ministers, scientists, the US State Department and the World Bank to create a science-based agricultural policy for small and medium-sized enterprises. farmers, including women. Prior to his service in the public sector, Hatch was an entrepreneur and executive in global risk management. Hatch would like to thank Tony McCammon of Bloom Horticulture for his contribution to this series.
Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or contributors. The elements stated and the opinions expressed are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are edited only slightly for technical style and formatting.