I am traveling from Seattle to London by bicycle and boat. Read the intro to my travels on Grist.
On Montana’s northern plains, some organic growers’ neighbors reportedly began referring to them as “weed farmers” a few decades ago. These organic pioneers had started to seed small, green plants in hopes of strengthening their soil. These little leguminous plants were nitrogen-fixers, species whose roots host nodules of bacteria that bring nitrogen from the air into the ground, converting it to a form usable by plants and thus fertilizing the soil without industrial chemicals. To conventional grain farmers, though, it seemed peculiar, perhaps pathetic, to intentionally grow plants that looked like the ones they tried to eliminate from their fields. In an agricultural culture that glorifies pure, unblemished waves of erect-standing grain, raising puny legumes and purposefully intercropping multiple species in one field appears unmanly, an affront to the dominion over nature that God has granted humanity. Or at least that’s what I learned reading Liz Carlisle’s book Lentil Underground while taking a break from bike touring.