Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Today I've had my first "harvest" from the garden - two grape tomatoes. They were tasty.
I've been gone a week and my eggplants have gone from being about 10 inches tall to over two and a half feet. The same with the cucumber. That doesn't seem possible and yet it is. I'm not sure what happened while I was gone, but they suddenly got very happy.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the "locally grown food" concept and how important that is. It stands to reason that something grown down the road from you, or in your backyard like these tomatoes, is likely to be fresher and better-tasting than something grown 3000 miles away, picked green, and shipped to your grocery store.
Estimates are that our food now travels an average of 1,500 miles before it gets to the dinner table. The benefit to this is that we enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables year round because they can be grown in places with temperate climates and shipped to us. The downside of this is that we're not getting the freshest things and that there are some costs to this that we're not paying for at the register - namely we're adding to air pollution with all that shipping, which is not helping the global warming issue any. It's ironic that even in places where food is grown, it's often shipped to distribution centers, then back to the area where it was grown in the first place.
Another issue is that we've lost family farms and have moved more toward a corporate farming culture. Those family farms not only provided a livelihood for the farmers, but they also kept money local, whereas that may no longer be true with corporate farming.
For me, the big issue is that we have lost touch with how food is "manufactured." I think many kids - and adults - have no sense of how food is actually grown. The more distance is involved in delivering our food, the more distance there is between us and the knowledge of how it comes to be. Do kids know what pigs eat? Do they know how we get milk? Do they know potatoes grow under the ground? I won't even ask if they know things that grow underground need to be planted in the dark of the moon and those above ground should be planted in the light of the moon.
Some have suggested we should all try to eat locally grown food. I think that's more of a challenge for some than others. If you limit "local" to 100 miles, as some have done, that's a very different thing in Kansas than it is in California.
However, I think we can all try to be aware of where our food is coming from. Is it coming from a place within a hundred miles? From within your state? From within your country? We can all try to be aware of this, even if we're not at the point where we can make significant changes. I think it's valid to consider the sources of our food nonetheless.