Reclaiming the narrative of nature: The 35th National Pesticide Forum
Rhizosphere, exudates, mycorrhizae, and microarthropods – I met all these words in a new way at the the 35th National Pesticide Forum at Humphrey School of Public Affairs on April 28 and 29, 2017. The forum was convened by Beyond Pesticides, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, and Organic Consumers Association. Rhizosphere, exudates, mycorrhizae, and microarthropods are part of the miraculous and fascinating world under our feet where plant roots meet soil, another razor thin and miraculous planetary phenomenon, like our atmosphere, that makes life on this planet possible. It is critical that we all understand the impact of pesticides, whether on a piece of fruit we buy that has been sprayed with pesticides that interacts with our internal biome, at our local schools and parks, or on the living breathing soil beneath us. The narrative has been owned by chemical companies that have created a story of waging war against organisms, rather than working with them.
National and local scientists, organic farmers, grassroots activists, authors, lawyers, beekeepers, politicians, organic landscape experts, and citizens gathered to present their research, wisdom, and experience in addressing our complicated relationship with pesticides. Participants gained deeper understanding about the impact of pesticides on human and soil health and the promise and power of regeneration, whether in a farm, lawn, or community council meeting.
As with any complex issue, there is a myriad of approaches and solutions related to the forum mission “focused on the adoption of policies to protect human health and the environment, and organic land and building management strategies”. The most powerful presentations addressed the human need for connection and story.
Jim Riddle, of Blue Fruit Farm in Winona, Minnesota, urged us to take back the narrative about our food system and “Make America organic again!” David Montgomery, University of Washington geology professor and author, wove a story of digging deep in the soil with hands and shovels, unearthing knowledge of the rhizosphere halo of life around plant roots. David used this experience to create an environmental trilogy rooted in a goal of bringing soil back to life, restoring soil degradation that has been occurring since the dawn of agriculture. The similarities between plant roots and our guts are revealed, along with ways to repair and restore our relationship to soil and life itself.
The forum included tours of Urban Roots with Pollinate Minnesota in St. Paul and Mhonpaj’s Farm, an organic operation in Marine on St. Croix, located at Minnesota Food Association educational site, dedicated to assisting budding organic farmers from diverse backgrounds.
May Lee, left, from Mhonpaj’s family owned organic garden, told us the story of her mother passing from cancer and her belief that growing food organically is a way to stay healthier.
Erin Rupp, beekeeper and founder of Pollinate Minnesota offered us a look inside a beehive and juicy bits of information about bee sex and the barbed penises of drones and the fact that all fruit is ovaries. Definitely information that resonates. Hearing about efforts to regenerate in a darkened room are informative and seeing it in action makes us buzz with excitement. Perils to pollinators are even more poignant when you watch these incredible creatures at work in their hive.
As a student in sustainability at the University of Minnesota, I felt empowered with information and tools presented at the forum. I look forward to creating a narrative that works with the incredible power and symbiosis of nature. In the words of Beyond Pesticides: “decisions should not be made for us by chemical companies or by decision makers who either do not have all of the facts or refuse to consider them.” I walked away with empowering and inspiring stories. Visit Beyond Pesticides for videos of forum presentations, tools, and resources for informing how you view this complex topic.
Banner Photo Courtesy of GraphicStocks