Artisan Spirit: Summer 2020

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HOW SUSTAINA BLE IS YOUR GR AIN ? WRITTEN BY GABE TOTH PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA JOY CHRISTENSEN

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istillers who decide to reconnect with the source of their ingredients and work directly with farmers can quickly learn that agricultural systems are not all the same. Growing grain is not a plugand-play process, and while going organic, looking for sustainable options, or simply aiming to do less environmental harm are admirable goals, every choice made on the farm has ripple effects. Crops have varying needs — soil nutrients, pest and weed control, and water are

just a few — and different cropping systems approach these factors in different ways. Industrial farming generally focuses on chemical fertilizers and herbicides as well as tilling the soil to control weeds, while organic or lower-impact approaches may use a variety of strategies, including crop rotations and till or no-till (itself a potentially fraught decision). In the end, there are tradeoffs everywhere. As Wendell Berry writes in The Unsettling of America, “It is the nature of the

soil to be highly complex and variable, to conform very inexactly to human conclusions and rules. It is itself a pattern of inexhaustible intricacy...”1 There are things that distillers can learn, though, to be more fluent in discussing their goals with a farmer. At Mad Agriculture in Boulder, Colorado, a nonprofit that specializes in designing regenerative systems that support soil rehabilitation, biodiversity, and improving the watershed, co-founder Phil Taylor said they begin with

1  Berry, Wendell. The Unsettling of America. 1996, Sierra Club Books. pg 86

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