Since I am currently unemployed I was taking the bus to one of the Workforce centers to do my duty and look for a job in order to collect unemployement. As I saw the houses pass by the window of the bus, seeing the various stages of develepment – decades old to newer build multi-function structures with shops below and apartments above, reminded me of the following.
Where I live in Wheat Ridge, Colorado we were once part of the bread basket, along with Broomfield, Littleton and surounding area, for Denver residents and even exported the excess. Most of the food produced were grains: wheat, corn, oats, rye, and barley. Sugar beets were also grown for the sugar industry. Wheat Ridge once had a good sized tree orchard, mostly apple, but there were also pear, peach, and plum trees. Some of these old trees can still be found in some yards.
Wheat Ridge also had a huge flower industry at one time, namely carnation, that exported them to many of the flower stores around the country. Wheat Ridge was so proud of this that it even named the fall festival, the Carnation Festival, after the industry. The greenhouses no longer exist today.
Ranching was a big industry that did more to hurt the land and make it less productive than all the grains and orchards combined. The cattle ate what little grass there was and left nothing but useless shrubs and a soil that became useless, depleted over the years.
All the towns have taken up the call for development and covered over all the grain fields with streets, concrete, pavement, houses and businesses or industries. None of these original farms remain today. In Wheat Ridge the orchards were cut down, stumps removed to the point where all you see is apartment buildings, houses and streets. They’re all gone. Wheat Ridge also had a huge network of irrigation ditches fed by ponds that held the spring runoff. These too are being erased.
Progress seems to mean, tear it down, dig it up, poison the land and put something on the land, a house or building of some sort and cover it with asphalt or concrete. Progress and developement have meant a lot of money for some, and the loss of their land to others who were told they could no longer grow the food that provided them their livelyhood for many generations.
The land here has never had the best soil, but with amendments like poop and old plants the land would yield a whole bastket full of food. Afterall, the sugar industry existed from late 1890 into the early 1930s when World War II damaged the industry and the Dust Bowl helped bring an end to the industry altogether as special interests wanted to concentrate the industry into a smaller area. The sugar industry around Denver at its height went all the way form Greely along the old Valley Highway (I-25), into Loveland and southward along the railroad tracks. Sugar beets were brought into Denver where they were processed and the sugar transported by train around the coutnry.
Time and again, progress saw fit to let food producing areas to go under in order to allow the land to be snatched up for very little money to see houses or other buildings placed on it or it was turned into an industrial area so cities could make more money from the taxes they charged.
Over the years I’ve seen policies change from farm friendly, or supportive of family owned small food production, to encourage developers to come in, change policies that ended food production, build something on that very same land because it yielded a higher income. Food was no longer a priority, instead money was.
As I rode through these areas on the bus seeing one of the old irrigation ponds and ditches I couldn’t help but think, the local government has been working so very hard to erase it’s farming past for the past 40 years and it will be soon, when it will have no choice, as the price of oil climbs ever higher, to reverse its decisions and put back these ponds and ditches and again allow food production and every yard.
Progress has truned so many urban areas into food deserts. The future will be about those who know how to grow food on as little land as possible for maximum yield.