I ventured downtown on Wednesday to the Spokane Ag Expo put on by Greater Spokane Incorporated. A good friend is the president this year so he gave me a grand tour of the impressive display of towering tractors and introduced me to dozens of farmers. I heard many farmers talking about no till farming methods which sound like they are being adopted at a rapid rate on the palouse. I've written about issues of erosion and the promise of no-till farming methods here, here and here.
I received a tutorial on the high tech, no-till "drills" that insert the seed with air hoses, spray fertilizer through another hose with precision below the seed, and then pack it down all in one quick pass over the ground. One argument in the environmental conversation is that technology will be the key to moving toward sustainability. This is a limited argument, but in the case of no-till farming, technology is definitely the hero.
The most fascinating part of the trip was walking across the street to check out the new Main Market Food Co-op that had a soft opening a couple weeks back. I couldn't help but feel a disconnect between the massive displays at the ag expo and the small boutique feel of the co-op. I went from conversations about 800 acre "hobby" farms and a 100 acre's of Costco asparagus in Pasco to looking at a dozen humble baskets of fresh produce on display at the market. The co-op is a wonderful addition to the local food culture and eco-system in Spokane but the tractor at the expo that had tracks like a tank instead of wheels could literally roll right over the co-op building without slowing down. In terms of scale, they are two different worlds. And the divides and differences between the two go beyond that.
I don't have any big answers or insinuations to make. Just observing. There were two very different narratives about food and agriculture playing out in downtown Spokane this week. I'm wondering where they connect and meet. How might we facilitate connections?