Perennial Nuts Offer a Key to Our Food System
By Michelle Ajamian
From the beginning (2008) we chose the word staple over grain in ASFC’s name, not only because nuts (and beans) are powerhouses of nutrition. Unlike the global impacts of corn, wheat, and soy crops, perennial nut trees are carbon sequesters, and ensure the integrity of the soil and water.
Nuts don’t require annual plowing, massive water resources, or herbicides. The value of these crops came back to me when I read about the Council of Pecans in Braiding Sweetgrass and the ways in which First Nations rejected agriculture in The Dawn of Everything.
Field crops, all of which are grown where forests and grasslands once stood, and most of which are GMOs, occupy more than 90% of US farmland. I wonder where we would be on climate, soil and water had our diets centered on gathering, cultivating and processing nut crops for the last two centuries. Field crop agriculture would not account for the lion’s share of agriculture worldwide. That’s clearly worth a lot!
Had colonizers asked how the indigenous peoples of North America were feeding and housing themselves with so little disturbance to their surroundings, they might have seen how First Nations managed, harvested and processed native nuts and seeds,(alongside their management of wild herds and fish).
What led to the land grabs, enslavement, and disregard for culture that had flourished here for thousands of years? I wonder what led to the focus on profit and a disregard for their place in nature among settlers?
I am excited that we are bringing more of our focus to perennial nut crops. From our milling work with the Route 9 Cooperative to supporting efforts to grow, harvest and process native nuts, we are building strong regional staple food systems throughout our region. Look to our future issues to learn about pecans grown and harvested by First Nations and Black farmers in Georgia.
As you enjoy the bounty of seed as we enter the cross quarter in which plants are making their seed, notice that those edible nuts are also the seed of the trees they grow on. Come fall, may there be a great nut harvest wherever you may be!