Recently, I had the pleasure of having a homemade organic lunch with Nash Huber and his gracious wife Patty McManus at their home on the Dungeness Valley. Actually, I invited myself, eager to talk to Nash about his commitment to growing high quality organic food for the people of the Olympic Peninsula.
I was accompanied by another interested party, Mary Autrey, who grew up on her grandparent’s organic farm west of Port Angeles. Like myself, Mary had questions about how the majority of the food in America came to be controlled by huge corporations. The concept of providing nutritious organic food for future generations has immense appeal for Mary.
I consider Nash to be a “local hero” for his steadfast efforts. Living on the Olympic Peninsula, I have the luxury of purchasing organic food from his farm by simply showing up at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. I wanted to talk to him about the original “big picture.” What were Nash and Patty’s long-term goals when they began the journey decades ago?
Long-Term Commitment to Pure Food
Leaning back in his chair, Nash smiled and humbly thanked me for my “hero” designation. “I do not consider myself a hero. To be honest, I just started all of this so that I could have pure food for myself and those I cared about. There never was a grand plan. I just spent many years and decades doing what I do. This is just what it grew into.”
A strong sense of community is the factor that drove the growth. As time went on, Nash slowly began farming more acres in order to fill the organic food needs of his friends and neighbors. He carries on that tradition to this day. Patty talked briefly about some of the history of transient farm employees, past and present, who permanently settled in the Dungeness Valley to raise their families. “Your community is your only real security,” says Nash.
Nash began his career as a chemist. He says that he still thinks like a chemist when he makes decisions about his farmland. Not that he thinks about what chemicals to add to the soil, but how to achieve the right balance of nutrients for certain parcels of land. Cover crops, topography, and soil conditions are all factors to be considered. Patty stated that it took decades to get the feel for the land and what crops are appropriate in certain areas.
Converting Commercial Farm Land to Organic
I asked about the process of converting old commercial farm land into organic land once again, following years of abuse with pesticides, herbicides and other chemical compounds. Nash discussed some of these land-reclamation projects currently underway. Although dependent on the original quality of the soil and the level of contamination, Nash said that it could take up to 20 years to feel good about calling the soil organic once again.
According to Nash, there are fewer than 700,000 small family farms left in the United States. With over 300,000,000 people in the country, it is apparent that the majority are being fed by a few giant agricultural conglomerates who now control almost all of the food consumed. It is scary to think that the nutritional health of America is in the hands of companies like Monsanto, that markets poisoned food under the guise that it is to feed the world.
My questions for Nash centered around the sustainability of our current agricultural system. I consider “big Agra” to be a dangerous experiment on the one thing that is absolutely required for people to even exist: their food supply. With profit as the primary motivation, how can we trust corporations to do what is in the best interest of the people? The evidence shows they do what is best for their bottom line.
U.S. Senate, FDA, USDA, and Big Agra
Presently, the right to know the origin of the food that we are consuming is one of the great political footballs being tossed about. The U.S. Senate recently rejected a bid by Monsanto and their minions to prevent states from passing laws requiring the labeling of GMO (genetically modified organism) food. The constant lobbying for the oppression of information by these companies is reason enough to ask questions about what they are hiding.
Nash answered many of my questions regarding the FDA, the USDA, the big chemical companies and other obstacles to expanding organic food availability. I was pleased and surprised by the answers.
He observed that most of the big food companies now have “organic divisions,” mostly acquired through buy-outs. Although some have degraded the organic component after purchase, others have used their new subsidiaries to expand the organic side of their business. Nash sees this as an acknowledgement by big business that organic farming will continue to expand in the United States.
Each winter for the past several years, Nash has attended an annual meeting of organic farmers from across the nation, held in Monterey, CA. He says that acquiring pure heritage seeds has become a pervasive problem because of companies like Monsanto. This issue is slowly being resolved through the cooperative efforts of these committed farmers. Nash notes a groundswell of increased dedication to organic farming from the remaining small farmers and the American consumer.
To my amazement, Nash stated, “Organic farmers are lucky to have companies like Monsanto.” He explains that their pesticide and herbicide-infested food is responsible for a new awareness by the consumer about the differences in the quality of food. “There is plenty of room underneath for the growth of organic farming.”
A recurring theme in our discussion was the idea of long-term commitment to the principles of pure food. We need to perpetuate what Nash and Patty have built here! At one point, Nash glanced over at Mary and asked her details about the farm where she was raised. As she described the activities there, he nodded his approval. “You can provide food for a lot of families with a farm like that. It just takes commitment.”
Commitment to a noble concept. Commitment to family, friends and community. Nash and Patty are, in my opinion, commitment personified. If you were to turn that idea into a simple math-like formula, perhaps that formula would be: Hero = Commitment
For more information about Nash’s Organic Produce, visit nashsorganicproduce.com