When we first brought our 20-acres near Lyle, Washington, we asked the local extension agent what we could grow commercially. With hestitation, he replied, “Grapes.” However, due to the copious amount of water need to produce grapes, we never went that route. Dozens of others around the Columbia River Gorge now grow many grape varieties and winery tours have become a popular tourist attraction.
For a while, we thought about a commerical acorn business. Native Americans throughout the West harvested acorns, turning the nutritious nut into a long-lasting pemmican. Unfortunately, unlike grapes and other fruit, oaks do not produce acorns every year (sometimes not even every other year). so that idea did not seem sustainable.
The land works hard for human kind, trying its best to grow crops in places of marginable soils, little rain, or where a horde of diseases, insects, birds and mammals seem to conspire to take it all away.
On our land, we have one lonely cherry tree, where every summer, a bevy of birds (and this year a ravenous raccoon) enjoyed EVERY piece of ripe red fuit.
The land works hard to produce minerals, cattle, sheep, crops and scenic locales for outdoor recreation. We assist land when we reclaim mines, rotate cattle to rest the forage, sometimes not growing foods to replenish soil, and seasonally restricting popular trails to protect sensitive habitats and/or at risk wildlife species. Perhaps it is like creating holidays when we restore overused land through native vegetation planting, erosion abatement on streambanks or trails and when adding compost to our gardens.
It can be particularly troubling when we take land out of prouduction. According to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, we lose 50,000 acres per year in Washington State alone permanently to development. Gresham, a booming suburb of Portland, Oregon and once known as “little woods” formerly, grew the world’s finest berrry crops, but has now transformed into an expanding urban center with diminishing farm space.
Frequently, there are competing views for how land should be used. In Hood River, Oregon, a propose new city park was turned down because adjoining farmers were concerned that the property would be taken out of agricultural use.
The Land & Community Steward has a continually difficult challenge in representing the best interests of the land, while recognizing the needs of the community, and as a result, having community leaders respect and honor the advice of the Steward as someone who is looking out for the best interests of all. ~
“All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of the community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in that community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soil, water, plants and animals or collectively, the land.” ~ Aldo Leopold