I’d like to briefly continue the discussion about the agricultural legacy of the story of Father Charles Pandosy in the Okanagan Valley. The story started with a discussion of his white-washed métis culture. Today I’d like to show the cutting edge of that story of agricultural bounty in a new country in the mountains of the West, as well as the surviving images of what might have been, and what will some day have to be. By the way, I can’t say the “Canadian West”, because back then there was no “Canadian West”, and no country called Canada.
Old Orchard Land, Okanagan Landing
Now a weedsprayed vegetable field left fallow. Well, sort of. It looks more like someone is mightily annoyed that the earth is not a sterile greenhouse grow medium ready for hydroponic planting.
It used to be that fallow land was allowed to regenerate by the sowing of fall rye, or lentils, which were then tilled in. Now the cost of a little bit of seed is scarcely more than the cost of a little bit of poison, but poison is the new way. Instead of rejuvenating in a fallow year, the soil deteriorates. That’s not the only cutting edge method. Here is another:
The pumpkins in the middle ground of this photograph are planted in sheets of black plastic, to capture heat, and irrigated with a chemical slurry released through trickle irrigation hoses.
So, agricultural land, that could feed people, is turned into a source of consumption of petrochemicals to produce material for carving at halloween and a celebration of harvest that, as the foreground shows, is really no more. Last year, all this land was planted in corn, to provide the material for tourist harvest celebrations by the lake in August… a tad early, but tourists don’t stay until the Fall.
The Face of Agricultural Work Today
Instead of tilling the field, this young farmer is measuring out his chemicals for the day. The whole thing pays for a nice truck, though. Yay.
Here is the real point of the enterprise:
Agricultural Test Plots in the Dead Zone
The land, you see, must be kept sterile, so that this carefully plotted and isolated agricultural test can proceed. Well, actually, it’s a choice.
Here’s what this year’s batch of corn being grown under this chemical farming regime looks like:
The land has been mined out. These stunted corn plants can find nothing to support themselves with within this inert ground rock, that used to be productive soil.
Meanwhile, on the edge of this End-of-the-Bounty-in-the-Desert road, the real future goes unnoticed…
Wild Asparagus Colonizing a Fence Line
And weeds reclaiming wounded soil. What a contrast to the field behind.
There are spots for millions of asparagus plants like this, on land boundaries that are currently producing nothing. Notice as well that this asparagus does not need chemical intervention. It’s doing just fine. The thing about cropping wild land, or feral agriculture, is that it is contrary to the Big Lie about Father Pandosy: this is agriculture that allows native space and merges settler and indigenous culture.
Right next to the asparagus, in the same fenceline, a little bee industry is also going unnoticed. But not completely. We are there, bearing witness to the future.
The White dream is over. It is time to go wild. It is time to actually harvest this land, rather than to farm it. Farming has proven itself to be ecologically and culturally bankrupt. Unless you want to sell pickup trucks. By the way, I feel that I can make these comments, because I lived for many years as a child and a young man at the forefront of that farming dream, and at the forefront of its chemical interventions as well. I’ve done my time. I’d rather live on a living earth rather than a dead one that stank like DOW or Monsanto chemicals.
Note: I’ll make a post tomorrow about water and then Okanagan Okanogan will go on its first ever holiday, as I’m going camping off the grid. I’ll be back daily around August 8.