On a daily basis, we are bombarded by a myriad of messages, all carefully crafted and coordinated by our corporate overlords. In case you haven’t been paying attention, we don’t live in a democracy, a democratic republic, or whatever else we were brainwashed into believing our American government was supposed to be during our 12 years of indoctrination in public schools. And then, of course, we’re convinced to add another four, six, or eight years on top of that, just for the privilege of tacking a few letters after our names for the purpose of “prestige.” And at what cost does this so-called honor come?
It’s too easy to succumb to this onslaught and get caught up in all the finger-pointing and ideological blame-gaming—it’s so much easier to control and subjugate a people divided. But this isn’t intended to be a screed, a diatribe, or even a jeremiad. No, I’m here to talk about simplicity in its most basic form—local food.
The other day, I posted an update on Facebook about my son’s Father’s Day gift a few years ago of three blueberry plants. It got an enthusiastic response, which reminded me that people are hungry (no pun intended) for food that’s real and matters centered on local.
After a year or two of not much going on, the bushes have started yielding enough berries that I’ve been able to enjoy them several times as toppings for my yogurt for breakfast, or by the handful, on my front lawn. Life doesn’t get any better than picking fruits or vegetables off the plants or vines growing on your own land. And this year, Mark added a fourth blueberry plant again on Father’s Day. I’m thinking that in a few more years, I’ll be a regular blueberry baron!
That desire to have enough land to grow a little bit of food is one of the reasons that I believe my Opa and Nana took a steamer across the Atlantic for, and ended up living in Lisbon Falls. Opa always had a knack for growing things, one that I think got passed on to my sister, as it’s obviously bypassed me.
I do consider myself a radical in the political sense, because as it’s been defined by others, a radical doesn’t believe that “the system” can be reformed. By “the system,” I’m talking about all our systems, really, including education, government, and back to today’s topic—local food.
I’ve referred to Sandor Katz in the past, in writing about sauerkraut, my favorite German food. Katz, aka, Sandorkraut, a nickname he earned for his zeal about sauerkraut and the other assorted fermented foods he writes about in his book, Wild Fermentation. Katz’s book, which is radical and revolutionary in the best sense of both words, mainly because it turns the traditional views about food—at least the views we’ve subscribed to over the past 70 years—completely on its head. Amen for that!!
Another book by Katz, The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, came out after Wild Fermentation, in 2003. Again, Katz is representing an alternative (a radical?) approach to the food system as presented to us by Big Food. The book profiles grassroots activists who were challenging ideas about food.
Think about it—this was 2003, when there were a lot fewer farmers’ markets in Maine and elsewhere. You didn’t have newspapers profiling the farm-to-table (a term I hate because it’s so damn elitist!) movement, and while there were writers and raw food gurus like Katz driving around in his pick-up, teaching people how to make sauerkraut and kimchi, the idea of raw food hadn’t gotten the press attention it has over the last five years, or so.
The people profiled in his book—the community-supported local farmers and the raw milk producers forced to fly under the radar of the government—this was the beginning of a movement of ordinary people that’s continued to gain critical mass. A group of regular people looking to find a way out of the corporate food maze and take direct responsibility for their own health and nutrition.
Here’s something Katz wrote in the book’s introduction—it’s still very relevant today, 12 years later:
Although food is such a fundamental need, most of us are dangerously disconnected from its source. In the United States in 2002, fewer than 2 percent of people were involved in direct agricultural production. Supposedly we have been freed from such drudgery to pursue higher callings. But what some disparage as drudgery is in truth the rhythm of basic sustenance and survival. This rhythm, defined by the seasons and the specificity of place, gives shape to different cultures and provides the context for building community.
Back to the focus of today’s post—local food—we have a farm share at a farm here in Durham that’s two miles from our house. The farmer, Richard Hodges, was a school chum of Mark’s when the two of them were students at Durham Elementary School, and playing 4th grade basketball together.
Richard and his wife, Moriah, run ReTreeUs, and are offering farm shares. Mark bought Mary and I a full share, which I gladly drive over and pick up every Thursday afternoon.
Bringing home our basket of food grown lovingly in our town is a singular reminder of a time when almost everything was centered in the places where we all lived. Then, nearly 70 years ago, we thought we knew better and we began outsourcing the production of food to someone else. Now, there’s an awareness that we need to go back if we have any hope for a future.
People like Katz and others (like Ben Hewitt) recognize that healing our nation is directly related to healing our local communities and one of the best ways to do it is through local food. Farmers like Richard and Moriah help make it a reality, one farm share at a time.