At HomeFarm, we aim to sustain the land that produces our food, the people who work and rely upon that land, and the animals, insects, and wiggly unseens that inhabit it. At SHED, we also consider what it means to be sustainable. In our lexicon, that includes fair and respectful treatment of employees; it means composting kitchen and cafe waste; it means rain water capture and riparian restoration of the adjacent Foss Creek. It even means that our walls are literally stuffed with denim for insulation. And those are just some of the ways that we define it.
As we’re all too aware, ‘sustainability’ is a word that everyone makes sense of for themselves. This nebulous bit of language is on our minds more than ever as our hometown of Healdsburg has claimed all of February as Sustainability Awareness Month and the U.N. General Assembly has declared 2016 to be the International Year of the Pulse. (A ‘pulse’ in this instance isn’t evidence of your beating heart but rather, a dried pea, bean, or lentil.)
Both point to essentially the same ethic, if arriving there via differing paths.
Blessed with a Mediterranean climate and giving soil, Healdsburg unquestionably is an agricultural paradise. We’re proud of city leaders for focusing not on Healdsburg’s renowned wineries and restaurants for a month of civic honor, but rather, on our collective efforts to steward our area as wisely as possible into the future. Happily, a robust future also means that — lucky us — we’ll have more time to enjoy our renowned wineries and restaurants.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is the pulse. A chick pea, a lentil, a dried bean — pulses are what have sustained humans across the globe for millennia, they’re what sustain millions across the globe today, and there is no reason to assume that they won’t be what sustains millions into the future.
But they themselves may not be sufficiently sustained to help humans live on into that future.
The U.N. estimates that, in the past 50 years, maize, wheat, rice, and soya have exploded in production — estimates range from 200 to 800 percent in increased cultivation — while pulse cultivation has lagged far behind at just 59 percent growth. Yet the hungry human population continues to boom.
As countries grow wealthier, the demand for the luxury of animal protein has increased, with maize and wheat feeding both animal and human. Economics demand that rice, soya, maize, and wheat get preference in planting. But the pulse remains a staple of such populous countries as China and India, which now import a commodity they once grew.
It just doesn’t make sense, and the U.N. aims to shine a spotlight on this inequity throughout the year. Among the many reasons that pulse production and consumption are positive for humans and the Earth is the low waste footprint of the pulse.
Pulses don’t need refrigeration and are hardy and long-lasting in storage. Of course, pulses are also inexpensive, particularly when compared with the cost of meat and dairy. Perhaps most important of all: Pulses are delicious.
As a fun part of their campaign, the U.N. has released a call for recipes featuring your favorite ways to prepare chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, white beans, navy beans, fava beans, pigeon peas, black-eyed peas (cowpeas), and split peas.
They’ll share submissions on their website and Facebook page for all the world to see, share, and enjoy. This promises to be a fascinating repository of international takes on a common good — the pulse.
Healdsburg and the U.N. General Assembly. One a small town of a few thousand souls; the other, a massive international organization. Both are interested in defining sustainability and finding ways to successfully apply it to their wildly disparate circumstances. Perhaps that’s all we can do, every day. Perhaps that’s enough.