Friday, August 15, 2008

Building an Obsession

Following are just a few thoughts about how I got to this point. (This point being one in which I am ecstatic when I dig a new potato or eat a sugar snap pea from the garden.) When I worked at Cornell Cooperative Extension for the school and community gardens program, I spent one cool October evening gleaning vegetables from a community garden. It wasn't just me. I was with my co-worker, Vicky, and a young neighbor. This 6 year old squealed with delight every time he discovered a handful of neglected carrots. They were buried treasure. Vicky and I laughed and lived vicariously through his youthful perspective. It reminded me of the first carrots I dug up with my mom in our little garden when I was very young. Throughout my childhood I pulled up Queen Anne's lace in search of more bright orange prizes. This 6 year old in the community garden reminded me of the power of that early experience.
I've had a conflicted relationship with food throughout my life. At times I've done whatever I could to avoid it. I've been on diets. I've been off of diets. All of that seems like so long ago. Now I love good food, especially if it has a good story.
I don't have to grow everything we eat. I can go down the road to the Amish farm stand. I can go to the local farmers' market. I can go to the grocery store in an emergency. I'd just rather know the story of my food. I prefer the connection built by sweat equity. Even when life gets busy, I find some small thing to help keep me aware of the bounds of my food shed: a few dried tomatoes thrown into dinner or savoring some fruit preserves from a friend.
I worked on a small organic farm in Fortville, IN. The Sharritts grew vegetables, flowers, chickens, turkeys, and cows for market. I learned a lot working there. That's where I abandoned my vegetarianism. After a day of chicken slaughter, Roger offered me a chicken to take home. It was the best chicken I'd ever eaten in my life. I think it was in part because of the story behind it. I also knew that the animal had had a pleasant life on the farm, and the meat was free of antibiotics.
As I sit here, the story of my food continues. It's difficult to dwell too long on the past in the midst of it.
There's a conversation going on about food. "Locally grown" and "organic" are loaded words in some circles. I realize that, generally, food is an emotionally charged subject. I'm keeping track of how much money and time I spend on feeding myself, because sometimes I question my assumptions about why I put so much emphasis on local and organic food. Is it cheaper? Is it better for the environment? Is it more sustainable for local economies? Is local food a more secure option? A large part of my motivation to raise and grow my own food is simply because it brings me joy.
I'll use this space to tell some of the stories behind the raising and growing of my food.

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