5 Questions With…
Andrew McMillion, Plant Expert
Andrew McMillion grows over 200 varieties of vegetables, trees, and herbs on his small ecological farm in Ornes, Norway where he focuses on earth care, people care, and increasing and protecting plant biodiversity.
1.) What is one of your favorite plants? Why?
This year I am especially excited about Mandan Squash which is thriving exceptionally well on our farm. I´ve been trying to find winter squash that will do well in our cold climate which has a short season. The Mandan were one of the three tribes that saved Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery from starvation. They worked for generations on selecting a squash that has great variation and mature early. Mandan winter squash are fully mature at 85 days, well ahead of most winter squash. I found the following book Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden as recounted by Maxi’diwiac (Buffalo Bird Woman) (ca.1839-1932) of the Hidatsa Indian Tribe to be quite interesting and will copy their drying and storing methods.
2.) What book do you recommend and why?
I´m reading The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry. That it was published in 1977 and remains so relevant speaks to the depth of insight it contains. Instead of a culture that values centralization, specialization, monetization, and objectification of nature, Wendell proposes a culture based on ecological stability where we see ourselves as stewards of our ecology and not something to consume or be separated from.
3.) What are your words, favorite quote, or advice to live by?
Complete cycles and ride waves. Life is just as much wave and process as it is matter. Why are we so focused on the matter? When you change your perspective to life as a process of ebb and flow, of growing and becoming, of inhaling and exhaling, then the values of society based on accumulation of material wealth and consumption seem pointless. A life where you are connected to the diversity around you, where you can experience the nutrient cycle from the tree to the leaf, to the compost, to the mulch, to the worm, to the microbe; then back to a new plant through a seed and the roots and the sprout, through photosynthesis to the flower, to the fruit, to the plate, to you. Then you are connected.
4.) What is one of your favorite places in the world? Why?
The greenhouse on our farm. Because there I am connected to an ecosystem and can celebrate wave after wave of life and the soil from which we all come.
5.) What has been the most challenging part of starting your farm? The most rewarding?
Understanding that plant health comes from soil health is the biggest key to success. The first few years I struggled to keep my plants alive and I was wondering if it was all worth it. Now that I have built a relationship to the soil and the focus has turned from plant health to soil health, I can ride the wave, instead of paddle to keep my head above water. The reward is the waves of nutritious plants I can incorporate into my body and the bodies of my families and friends, as well as the seeds saved from those waves. They in, turn are the potential for new waves. But you do still have to do some paddling.