Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ventures Into AgriTech

Here is Max (in the hat). We are at a ferry terminal, waiting for a ferry to take us to the mainland. We're going on a trip with the 4-H people in our district. We're off to see what's happening at an agricultural show, which, if you are not an agricultural person, means big farm equipment + farm items + animal items = not something your average Sheila usually finds herself at. 

Anyhow, here is Max sitting next to one of his 4-H cronies at the ferry terminal. Oh right, I already said that, didn't I? Well, did I mention that it was 6 am when I took that shot? That's right, Gentle Reader: six o'clock in the morning! And not only is it six o'clock in the morning, but we're both dressed AND in a place a long ways from where we normally SLEEP. And that, lemme tell you, is a wonder of wondrous proportions. I don't do early mornings. Well, I did one once for the birth of a child, but I didn't have a lot of choice in the matter. Since then I have taken great care to HAVE more choice in the matter. 

Hopefully I have sufficiently impressed upon you what a complete diva I am the earliness of the hour.
Luckily Max is in a good mood. I think I was too, but it's all such a blur now. I awoke at 4:35, then got up, worried that I might not have enough time to make myself a coffee before heading out. Ugh. Just the memory of it makes me feel wimpy all over again.
Here we are in the bus. It rained the entire time we were over on the mainland. We all kept wondering if it was raining on the island, something people on islands seem to do a lot...

Here is one of the 14 aisles at the exhibition. It was a lot larger and more farm-ish than either Max or I had thought it would be. I was imagining pleasant little booths of organic seeds, or even some interesting tools, but not this: substitute infant sheep formula, plastic container making machines, blueberry packing machines, lectures on agri-business. And so on. Fortunately one of the 4-H leaders knew this and had a Scavenger Hunt for all the kids to do, with questions like "find a recipe for something with blueberries" or "what is the chemical composition of the ACER fertilizer at the ECOGROW booth?" What she didn't mention was how many booths were giving out free pens (39) or how many booths were giving out free note pads (26). We are now the proud recipients of many a free pen as a result of this sharp observation. Not that I had anything to do with it mind you but the twins expected some presents and heck what's wrong with a free pen?

After we'd exhausted the Fun Potential of the AgriShow we were bussed over to a greenhouse business to see how they Did Things. Here is one of the three wood burners we saw. They burn chips from the pine trees decimated up in the interior (by the pine tree beetle - if you don't know about it click here). The trees are chipped and burned and heat the greenhouses. There were piles of chips outside. I didn't realize that the pine beetle-decimated trees were actually used for anything, so this was a pleasant surprise.

It was also oppressively hot in these greenhouses. We dragged around a bit, realizing somewhat belatedly that we were all exhausted and feeling a bit grouchy.
Then the greenhouse owner had us dress in these for the sterile propagation houses: Blue Instant Party Clothes. This livened up the action considerably. Between the teen-age girls moaning about how they "weren't a size XL" to the teen-age boys pulling the hoods up and zipping the zips up so all you could see were their eyes to the almost teen-age boys sniggering heartily at anything and everything particularly if it involved some humiliation for someone, well, it was almost constant bedlam. The greenhouse owner was a bit bemused. Obviously he doesn't hang around teen-agers much.

At one point I remarked to one of the other parents: "I feel like I'm in a Woody Allen movie - don't you feel like you're going down a fallopian tube or something?" but sadly my reference was lost on a Woody Allen Scorner. Sigh. It really DID feel like that though, particularly since the greenhouse guy kept yelling "Hurry up! We're going to be late!" which would cause most of us to start slipping and sliding down the concrete path. And yes, I was dressed like this too. White booties and all. A fetching look.
Here are the Pollinators for the Tomatoes.

They come in a box.

Bumble bees in a box.

Here is one aisle amongst the rows of tomato plants. Monsanto seeds, by the way. You know, the Monsanto that owns about 79% of the seed companies around the world?

Yep, that Monsanto.

All the greenhouses around these parts, unless clearly designated ORGANIC, use Monsanto seeds we were told. I made a mental note to be more careful about greenhouse vegetables in the future. I made a mental note to be more careful about anything vegetable in the future. And to grow more vegetables for the freezer so I don't feel the urge to buy anything in the winter. Not that I do buy much, but still. I might have a fit and buy something for a dinner party. So far it's been 2 years since I've bought a fresh tomato. And counting.

The trip made for some interesting discussion today. The teen-ager was doing his usual "I need to argue with you even though I agree with you" routine and wondering aloud why we worry about GMO seeds. Why we worry about eating foods that have been grown in soil-less mixtures with chemical feeds in sterile environments with boxed bumble bees to pollinate them. Why we care at all about this stuff.  It made for some sobering thinking for me. So I spent the rest of the day out in the garden. Digging up the beds in preparation for the spring. So I can avoid this with a glad heart.


Rebecca said...

Ha ha ha! I totally get the Woody Allen reference. If that makes you feel any better.

Pretty disturbing about the Monsanto thing. Gah.

sheila said...

I'm glad someone did. It could have made for so much hilarity.

Creepy about the Monsanto, eh? I didn't realize it was so prevalent. Very disturbing.

Anonymous said...

6 a.m.?!?!?! I'm impressed!

I consider it an amazing feat if I get out of the house before 9, and adding in a child to that mix (up, dressed and fed) is a near miracle.

Mary-Sue said...

wow. i knew it was bad, but didn't realize just HOW bad. if only more people knew, hey? i have this dream of walking down a street and seeing veg growing in EVERY yard...
thanks for this. i'll pass the insight along...

Mary-Sue said...

okay, i just have to say that the first time i read this, i read it from the bottom up, and was just shocked and horrified and disgusted by our species. SERIOUSLY! that is agriculture 2010? good grief. i'm ashamed!
i read it again but from the top down and YOU ARE SO BLOODY FUNNY!!! i was laughing so hard the kids wanted to know what was funny! when i showed them the pics and told them it was Monsanto-bad-guy-again, they didn't think so funny...
but seriously.

Heather said...

Well, I was going to comment about Monsanto but now I can't get past Mary-Sue reading from the bottom up?!?! Does read from right to left too? Does she start reading a book from the end and work towards the beginning? I'm all wonderment and no longer care about Monsanto. ;-)

sheila said...

Heather, Mary-Sue, I have to confess that I really AM more funny from the bottom up. Truly. My bottom is hysterical. My top isn't so funny.

Seriously? I'm still in bewilderment that I managed to get to a ferry terminal by 6am. Talk about shock and awe. I managed BOTH. At the same TIME. Just call me Goddess Sheila...