I learned a lot of plant science when I went to Timberland Gardens. It was most interesting to me that plant nutrition is actually very similar to human nutrition and I had a good time nerding out and asking the extremely knowledgeable Kelly Grummons of Timberland Gardens all about the details of plant nutrition and science. I learned that all soil products have silica, which causes silicosis-a respiratory disease. According to wikipedia, it is caused by inhalation of crystalline silica and marked by inflammation and scarring in forms of nodular lesions in the upper lobes of the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, fever, and cyanosis (bluish skin). Apparently, you must practice caution because silica is in dust and even manure, as well as vermiculite and perlite, which are also both found in potting soil. Vermiculite is mica, a thin and sparkly sheet mineral, that has been super heated to expand so it functions to hold air and water and makes the potting soil light, spongy, and fluffy. Perlite is pumus stone that has been treated with high heat to expand the pumus and is completely inert so functions to keep oxygen and moisture in the soil without adding mineral content. We discussed so many things at Timberland gardens, I will just provide here are a few highlights:
-Compost should be dark brown to black, and never add compost that has not been fully decomposed to soil; it depletes the nutrition of the soil. Green and lively grass trimmings will help it rot faster.
-Plants have gone through a process of evolution to adapt to our modern soil
-Clay is full of tiny crevices and has a magnetic quality that makes it great for holding onto minerals and salts, which in turn helps plants receive better nutrition
-Rabbit manure is great because the rabbits eat lots of alfalfa, which is very nutrient-dense. Alpaca manure is excellent manure that can be used almost fresh because it is so low in urea.
Burlington, Colorado was a most memorable experience as well. It was really great to meet everyone we met in that town and to see the faces behind factory farming and what kind of people raise the meat that we eat. I felt so lucky to have been able to immerse myself in the experience as my desire from the beginning of school, and even before I came to Colorado was to experience the slaughter of an animal. I have yet to do that but I feel a lot closer to it by my experience in Burlington. I did see things that I have never seen and got to partake in the process of separating of mother cows from their babies. I saw both sides of the meat industry (free-range, pastured, and grass fed vs. corn-fed on a feedlot) and really gained understanding, first-hand, what’s behind the obvious politics that goes along with GMOs and factory farming; there is a bigger picture here. My opinions about how I want to spend my money when it comes to buying food have not changed. I still don’t want hormones in my meat and dairy. Grass fed is better for the cows, the environment, and the humans who are consuming the meat, but things are never black and white. I don’t think that the farmers who make a living and survive on providing America with factory farmed meat and GMO crops are bad people, at all. The science that goes into genetically engineered plants is amazing and are changing our world in exciting new ways. It was an experience that has definitely opened my eyes to seeing the American food system with a fresh perspective.