Guest student blogger: Sarah Antonelli (MESM 2016)
Carbondale, CO—A small carrot fights its way through a miniature jungle of pigweed and thistle to catch a glimpse of Mount Sopris, an iconic mountain just south of Carbondale, Colorado. The weeds are thriving this year thanks to Carbondale’s abundant morning sunshine and frequent afternoon rains. This brave carrot receives no help from synthetic herbicides, due to the organic garden management practices employed here at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, but it is not alone in its fight for survival. I, along with a team of three other professional weed assassins, am out on the front lines every morning to give it and thousands of other future vegetables a chance. Usually the fighting consists of hand-to-plant combat, but we recently invested in a Ghostbuster-style flame weeder for days when we feel particularly spunky.
Day after day, we weed. After spending countless hours battling these unwanted plants, it can be tempting to curse organic practices and daydream about the convenience of conventional agriculture. But when I took my first bite of produce harvested from this garden- a beautiful heirloom tomato- every single hour of weeding felt worthwhile. The tiny blemishes and slightly imperfect shape of this tomato did not detract from the unbelievable taste. The juice that squeezed out of the fruit was both sweet and savory; each seed was a tiny packet of flavor. As I relished each bite, I tried to compare this experience with that of eating a tomato from a grocery store. The two do not compare. The endless drive for efficiency found in our conventional food system forces us to sacrifice more than just sustainability; we are sacrificing taste, too.
It is incredibly rewarding for me to eat something that I planted, nurtured, and harvested. Regardless of where I live after graduating from the Bren School, I guarantee that you will find a small garden somewhere nearby, whether in my own yard, a vertical planter, or a community plot. Even if it only has room for my tomatoes. And maybe a brave carrot or two.
Sarah Antonelli is an expected MESM 2016, specializing in Economic and Politics of the Environment with a focus in Strategic Environmental Communication and Media. This summer she is working as a garden intern with The Colorado Rocky Mountain School garden.