My freshman year of college, I heard John Robbins speak about his book Diet for a New America (1987). It was my first introduction to the impact our food choices have on the planet. I was already a vegetarian, though I can’t remember why. After hearing Robbins and reading his book, however, I could articulate a clear rationale for giving up meat. Robbins cited quantitative comparisons between the amount of resources it takes to grow a vegetarian versus a meat-based diet. For example, 20 herbivores could live off the same amount of land it takes to feed just one carnivore. He argued fewer people would be starving to death if everyone ate less meat. His observations seem all the more relevant today in relation to current discussions about irrigation in California. The idea that one pound of factory-farmed meat requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce makes those one gallon almonds seem downright sustainable.
I’ve read countless other arguments for eating a vegetarian diet since that talk. I’ve been inspired by folks who have tried to grow a well-rounded diet including Quarter Acre Farm and Shagbark Seed & Mill in Athens, OH. And so it was with tremendous pride that I cooked a pot of chili tonight using beans we grew ourselves. Beans that were fed purely by rain showers.
Last year our friend and CSA member Pam brought us a packet of Scarlet Runner Bean seeds she’d saved from the previous season. She said they would grow pretty vines with bright red flowers (see top of post) the humming birds would coming flying for.
They did. And when they were gone, we gathered the beans and saved them to plant again this season. While we planted the seed beans all along one fence last year, this year we spread them throughout the garden in keeping with our goal of providing invitations for pollinators throughout the farm. The bees, birds, and beans have benefit.
With extra room to roam, the beans are flourishing. Last week Cora shelled a full cup of dried ones that I soaked and cooked to use in the chili in place of kidney beans. See this post from Eat the Weeds and Other Things, Too for more information on harvesting and processing these little gems. We’re looking forward to getting a few more cups this season and sharing seed beans with our supporters next year.