Farming Trends

Aug 22, 2022 by Rose O'Keefe

Another terrific article in the Almanac was on designating 2023 as International Year of Millets. Who knew there were 20 species and thousands of varieties of this superfood that sprouted independently in China, South Asia and Africa? It was scorned as peasant food for a long time  and now is considered a “future-smart” food. Most of the millet grown in the U.S. is grown in Colorado at first mainly for birdseed, but now as a staple for those with celiac disease who can’t tolerate gluten, the protein found in wheat.  Dr. Dipak Santra, an alternative crops breeder at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said he was the only breeder of improved varieties in an American public university, and possibly anywhere in the world – not a boast, but a regret. New varieties need new markets. It’s a big challenge.

The 1940 Newbery Award winner, Call It Courage by Sperry Armstrong, was a vivid retelling of an ancient Polynesian story from long before the arrival of colonizers. Mafatu, whose name means Stout Heart, was the son of a chief who developed a fear of that sea after he and his mother were caught in a fierce storm and she drowned. When he no longer joined in the training and tasks of boys and young men in his island village, he endured shame and embarrassment for cowardice. With the company of an albatross and a scruffy dog, Uri, he set out to conquer his fears and after a long time arrived at a faraway island, only to find that it was the ritual site for nearby man-eating islanders. All the time he had spent alone learning how to make tools, nets and making repairs came to his rescue as he built himself a shelter, fishing nets and traps, and a canoe. The ways in which he came to kill a wild boar, a gigantic octopus and evade his would-be captors were riveting. That Mafatu and Uri survived the long sea journey back to his home island was amazing. What a wonderful legend!

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