Throughout high school and into college, I spent my summers and weekends working in a commercial greenhouse. Elm Court Greenhouse was built in the late 1800’s and at the time provided the Vanderbilt family’s summer home with a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers for the “Big House”. It was here as a teenager that I was introduced to the so-called magic of Roundup weed killer.
Roundup, a non-selective systemic herbicide produced by Monsanto, kills almost anything it is sprayed upon. I first used it one summer on a small area between two greenhouses that was difficult to mow. The greenhouse had side vents open during the warm weather. Uncontrolled weeds meant their seeds could drift into the houses and contaminate the growing beds with undesirable plants. Tony Fiorini, the burly Italian owner who could not do anything fast enough, grumbled for the gallon of Roundup he kept in the basement by the massive furnace used to heat the greenhouses. We sprayed it on the area between the houses and left it until the next day. By the next morning the entire area was completely brown, looking like those eerie pictures from the dropping of the first atomic bombs. Could this stuff really be good to use? I wondered. What if I got it on my skin? What if there were animals living where we sprayed? I didn’t like it and felt uncomfortable ever using it again.
The Roundup debate has continued to be a hot topic since Monsanto introduced it in the 1970’s. Some countries (not ours) have considered banning the use of Roundup. Monsanto has developed genetically modified seeds to increase their resistance to Roundup. These Roundup Ready Seeds allow the grower to continue spraying their crops with Roundup post emergence and not worry about killing them. Farmers who use them sign non-compete agreements with Monsanto enforced by a team of lawyers and field agents. There is an argument for increased crop yields and decreased labor costs to the farmer. But at what cost? The dangers of monoculture, unknown side effects of genetically modified organisms (GMO), the overuse of chemicals and runoff into streams and lakes, and the evolutionary effect on a generation of super weeds resistant to increasing levels of deadly Roundup are just of a few of the possible dangers.
At Big Bowl, we do not support the use of GMO’s in our food chain. We seek out and support non-gmo food sources. We support local farms, including Heritage Prairie Farm, who do not use herbicides or chemicals in the production of the food we serve our guest. Heritage Prairie is committed to using heirloom varieties available through the Seed Savers network of family farms. We source local food producers committed to sustainable practices and we encourage our guests to do the same.