I’m bummed that gardening season is coming to an end. What can I do to stay connected to the local food movement?
One thing that has been lost from many of our lives is a real connection to food. Fast food, for one, has contributed to this problem by taking away our participation in the process of growing, cooking and even appreciating. Food comes out the window with little thought of how it got there in the first place and within minutes, it’s part of the digestive tract.
Absence of food and agriculture education is also to blame as many of our youth never have the opportunity to visit a farm or pull a carrot out of the ground. Our children assume that food is magically made in the grocery store — an endless supply available anytime of the year.
There are many ways you can develop or regain that connection to the food you eat. Growing your own food in a community garden or window sill can help. Spending the time to prepare the food from scratch can also make you fall in love again. Finding ways to shorten the distance from the producer to the consumer is another way to connect. For example, purchasing your food from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program or directly from the farmer or farm stand can easily enlighten you on where your food comes from. In addition, your food develops a story and becomes meaningful as you learn about how it was picked, when it was harvested, type of seed, type of soil, and who it benefits.
Some of the most influential advocates for food connection like Alice Waters, Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and one of my favorites, Joel Salatin, suggest a deep connection from food can be built on some of the following:
• Sitting together at the dinner table again — Whatever happened to sharing the day’s happenings with the rest of your family instead of staring at the TV? The dinner table ritual is a good practice for learning respect and appreciation for food.
• Refraining from ignorance by eating as an “agricultural act” — Wendell Berry has always been a huge proponent of knowing where your food comes from by asking questions, doing the research and making smart consumer choices.
• Understanding the value of each plant and seed — Think about how much energy, time and money was put into growing, harvesting and transporting your food. This alone should eliminate all of the food we tend to waste. Always remember, someone planted a seed, cared for that seed, and harvested the plant so we could eat.
• Better! Not bigger, faster and cheaper – This one is a Joel Salatin original and reminds us to respect appropriate scales. In other words, be leery of big industries and food brands that aim for consolidation, quick turnover and the bottom line. Instead, support the farmers or small businesses that have your health and wellbeing in mind.
Here in Summit County, we’ve been working on deepening that food connection. We’ve found that by fostering our community’s connection to food, we’re building a foundation of informed citizens that care deeply about their health and the environment (both of which are directly impacted by agriculture).
One way to kick off your newly revived food connection is to join High Country Conservation Center for an upcoming harvest dinner. The Garden to Table Dinner at Keystone Ranch next Thursday, Sept. 19, features like-minded food enthusiasts and sustainable and local food. The event raises funds for the Summit Community Garden Network, benefitting five community gardens in Summit County. The Harvest Dinner at Vinny’s on Oct. 4, highlights local farmers and gardeners with an outstanding four-course meal. Visit www.highcountryconservation.org for more info.
Another way to feed that connection is to get involved in the planning and implementation of the new Summit County Seed Library. The seed library is a great way for home and community gardeners to build locally adapted seeds that are more resilient to our challenged soils and mountain climate. The seed library will offer free access to organic seeds and seed saving education to everyone in our community. To support the Summit Seed Library Campaign and to find out how you can get involved, please visit www.SummitGardenNetwork.org.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.