Today is finally squash harvest day here at Red Dog Farm, one of the most exciting events on the farming calendar. There really is something so satisfying about harvesting a squash. It is the ultimate symbol the successful completion of another busy growing season, and proof that we have taken full advantage of the lush summer and are prepared for the long winter ahead. As I was harvesting squash this morning, I was so charmed by each variety’s unique character and distinctive beauty. Before coming to work at Red Dog, I was pitifully ignorant of the amazing number of unique squash varieties in this world, but now I find myself in awe of the dignified pale blue Hubbard, the fun and vibrant Red Kuri, and the truly adorable Sweet Dumplings.
Not only is it fun and enjoyable to plant an interesting mix of squashes, it is also incredibly important to the future of global food security! According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, over 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared from farm fields worldwide, and 75% of the world’s food supply comes from only 12 plants and 5 animal species (fao.org). This is pretty scary, because once a crop variety becomes obsolete or extinct, that genetic diversity is gone forever. Without genetic diversity, our food supply becomes much more vulnerable to disease. And if one of the 12 plant species that we largely rely on succumbs to a disease, we lose a huge percentage of our global food supply.
A big reason for all of this genetic loss is that growing a diverse array of regionally-specific fruit and vegetable varieties doesn’t really work on an industrial scale. Just another reason why small organic farms are so important, and why I am very happy to be part one that cares a lot about providing our community with a wide selection of fun (and globally valuable) vegetable varieties. I love them all; the many different kinds of radishes, lettuces, and potatoes that we grow here – but today, as I catch a hint of that crisp fall air on the breeze, I think love squash the most.