Necterines at the Berryville Farmers' Market, 2008
At some point you realize that there isn't much in life over which you have control. I'll reach a milestone birthday in a couple of weeks and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arkansas gave me an early present: a $200 dollar a month increase for my pretty average health insurance. I'm a healthy guy who hasn't been to a doctor in five years. Go figure.
There isn't anything I can do about the shenanigans of Wall Street Banksters or Detroit's inept Fat Cat Auto Execs. The never-ending conflict between Hamas and the Israelis is simply beyond my comprehension. Maybe--or maybe not--Carroll County has an extra $8,000,000 lying around. Either way, I didn't have a thing to do with it, except to fork over money in any amount they demanded. Go figure again.
What I can control on a nearly absolute basis is what I put in my mouth, and by exercising that control I can have a positive impact on our environment, improve community health, promote neighborliness, and enhance our local economy. I'm sure you dying to ask the "how" question. Here it comes:
To the extent possible I am going to stop eating imported food. That's it. That's my New Year's Resolution, my Plan to Save the Universe. Goodbye oranges and Budweiser, hello apples, peaches, paw paws, strawberries, kiwis, persimmons, and home brew. I'm going to start acting locally--at the dinner table--and let the Banksters and Fat Cats act out their own global melodramas.
I'm going to start by growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables in my yard. What I've learned this past year by visiting urban agricultural sites all over the United States, is that any parcel of land, no matter how small or badly polluted, can be turned into productive and beautiful space by adding labor, sunshine, and water to the seeds or seedlings you plant on it. These "urban farms," ranging from four by four foot square plots to several acres, enrich the earth and air, supplement household incomes either through food savings (a net average of $6 a week for very small plots) or earnings through sales (as much as $50,000 an acre for organic produce). And, of course, gardeners benefit from exercise, from being outdoors, and from placing themselves squarely in the natural world.
I'm going to eat seasonally, and get better in touch with the rhythm of the months and the cycles of weather. I'll look forward to fall when the apples come in, enjoy early tomatoes in early summer, and eat lettuce and spinach just after and before frost. The tomatoes I eat in November and the apples and peaches I eat in April will be ones that I can or freeze myself.
I'm going to continue my subscription to Wildfire Farm's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation. That means that, every week during the season, Marcie Brewster and Diane Schumacher, farmers from just south of Berryville, will deliver two hefty bags of just picked strawberries (in season) and vegetables of all varieties. Because I know Marcie and Diane, and have visited their farm, I know who produced my food and how my food is produced. Knowing this assures me that my food is safe, produced using methods that add to rather than extract from the land, and is as fresh as food can be.
I'm going to continue to buy my eggs from Dr. Fred Mayer, Carroll County's most musical farmer. Compare one of Dr. Mayer's farm fresh eggs with a supermarket egg and you too will be astonished by how much they vary in color, texture, and richness. It will be difficult to go back to using the industrial product after you've seen the difference.
What I'm most looking forward to is shopping at our various Carroll County farmers' markets this spring. At these markets I get to meet and talk with my neighbors, keep my money in Carroll County, and honor local heroes like Marcie and Diane, Patrice Gros, Linda Jones, and the many other small producers who make it possible for us to be a sustainable and viable community.
To learn more about Carroll County Agriculture, about our local farmers and market gardeners, and about how you too can take charge, plan on attending the Carroll County Fresh! Annual Meeting on February 28th, Visit http://carrollcountyfresh.org/index.html for more information.