Tuesday, April 03, 2007

learing how to farm in the desert...

Bend, OR lies just east of the Cascade Range and too the west of the Great Sandy Desert. In the summer the snow from the nearby Three Sisters range melts away filling the rivers and providing a vital component of the seasonal transition. This water is a critical resource, which has been claimed as private property.

Though we all benifit from the redirection of this resource. It brings up many questions in regard to the act of farming in the dessert and water rights in general.... is this a method in which we can continue to use for future generations? and if so, what will be the externalities of our actions? whom is responsible? and, are there better methods that wouldn't place so much pressure upon valuable resources? i am curious to know what you, the reader, has to say about this issue? This week, in Bend, OR, they began to divert the lower Deschutes River for irrigation. This is one of the better local runs in Bend, and as of this week it will be turned off.


Val said...

Jay, you bring a lot of light to a very critical issue here--and not just in Oregon, but in most of the western US.
I highly recommend anyone who 1) lives in the Columbia Basin, and/or 2) uses water! to read "A River Lost: The life and death of the Columbia" written by Blaine Harden, a native of Moses Lake, WA. (you may be able to find a used copy at ArtiFacts in Hood River, across the way from River City Saloon--look in the Environmental/Nature Section; otherwise try Powell's Books onine).
In the book, written in 1996, Harden examines the history of damming the Columbia for hydropower, agricultural practices in the desert, and the impacts of said activities on the Columbia River, the salmon, the environment in general=hence on us. It is a fantastic read, well-written and informative.
I studied horticulture for a stretch in Montana, a state, like Oregon, that is largely dependent on natural resources for economic survival. Dry and arid, eastern Montana is no place to be trying to grow wheat, soybeans, etc.--yet, like most of the west, we have been giving it a go for more than 125 years: diverting rivers, losing topsoil, and fighting with mother nature to eek out a living...to the point where the average farmer cannot subsist without major subsidies from Uncle Sam.
While we all need to make a living--and we all need to eat--we must take a closer look at how we are growing our food. It isn't an option any more; it is obligatory as a human being to call into question how we are impacting our environment--down to the simple act of sowing seeds--because we all have a choice. As consumers, what to buy, what we put in our mouths, which companies are worthy of our monetary and moral support.
Wow Jay, I guess you hit a nerve!! Sorry for rambling! But one more book you should-that Everyone--should read is "The Omnivore's Dilemma", by Michael Pollan. Incredible, will change how you think about what you eat, how it is grown, exposing things about the food industry you will wish you would have learned 10 years ago. (Andy has my copy, ask him. It's a $30 book, well worth it for sure--but if you can borrow mine, go ahead, I don't mind).
Thank you for bringing up this issue Jay. I look forward to hearing what others have to say about it.

Jay Gifford said...

thanks for the literary recomendations. I have been meaning to drop into Artifacts, so i will certainly check that out. Water rights are such a new concept. And it seems that alot of our assumptions are taken for granted....

Subscribe in a reader