Friday, May 22, 2009

Eating with Open Eyes

Until a few years ago, I was completely blind and ignorant when it came to the food I ate and fed my family.  I grew up in the suburbs, in the land of Captain Crunch and Foldgers coffee.  I never had a veggie patch, I never thought of where our food came from other than the Grand Union grocery store.  Even pre-cut carrots and pre-shredded cheese didn't seem too out of place in my mind.  It wasn't until I travelled around a bit and finally landed in Ithaca, NY, that I even begin to think about my food in a serious way.

In Ithaca, while working at Maxie's Supper Club and being exposed to the Ithaca Farmer's Market, Greenstar Co-op, and the famous Moosewood Restaurant, I became aware of the local food movement happening. 

 It was then that I attempted to have a little garden patch of my very own (really just corn and herbs).  The story goes, when I was down at my plot planting all of my seeds, I opened the packet of corn seeds and was blown away to find that, what? corn seeds are corn kernels!!!  Looking back, it seems so silly that I wouldn't even know that, duh!, corn seeds are, of course, corn kernels.  But, what I also realized at that point was how removed I really was from the food I ate to sustain my energy and life.  And, that I no longer wanted to live so separated from such an intimate thing- food- and definitely don't want my daughter growing up that way.  

That was just the beginning.  That realization led me to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, listen to an interview with Kingsolver, and a speech by Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma).  The floor fell from under me!, and my whole world changed.  My eyes were opened to not only the miracles of local, homegrown food as far as flavor and nutrition goes, but to the entire process of conventional food, from laboratory to seed to farm to freight to the produce section at the store.  

Companies like Cargill and Monsanto are destroying our food bank.  Through the seeds they create, these massive corporations are destroying the farmer and any chance at true community and diversity within agriculture.  They have seeds that are called Terminator, Traitor, Zombie, and GURT to maintain this control, and the variety of vegetables we have today are so few compared to just a century ago.  And, any farmer, or body, who has tried to stand up against these companies usually gets squashed by their huge banks of money and government backing.  Right now that is happening to a new film about the conventional food system called Food, Inc.  Monsanto's website is using matters of the heart to discredit Food, Inc. by saying that the movie "demonizes the farmer."  BULLSHIT!  

The time is now to take action.  We, the People, need to educate ourselves and take control over our food systems.  With food prices on the rise, this is the best time to make our voices heard by growing our own food, either in our backyard, porch, or a yardshare, by joining a CSA, by buying from local farmers at a farmer's market, and by demanding that our grocery stores carry local goods.  THE WAY TO MAKE OUR VOICE HEARD IS THROUGH OUR DOLLARS.  Every time we spend money on food from a local farm, we are voting.  Every time we buy heirloom seeds from a local seed bank, we are voting.  Every time we choose organic over GMO, we are voting.  One change over to one local, whole product at a time is all one has to do.  We have so much power through the dollars we spend and we need to harness that power to bring our food back to it's roots- whole, fresh, simple, nutritious, and delicious.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

judgement day

Well, we've got some seeds started and the garden brush from last season is burned.  

We planted our tomatoes, radishes, onions, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and peppers all indoors to get a jump on our short, northern growing season.  So far everything has sprouted except for the peppers.  Now I have to pull some of the little babies so that the strongest, best looking in each little square can have room to grow and thrive.  For me, this is an ugly necessity of gardening- weeding out the babies who just aren't good enough.   

As I understand it, the onions, started from seed, are on a two year rotation.  The first year they grow into a set (a little mini-bulb), then the next year they grow into a big, blooming onion.  So, we'll have to wait to see how delicious our Australian Browns are, and how well they keep through a winter.  

But, for now I must assassinate some of our babies for, as we've all heard, only the strong survive.  And, who am I to hinder that?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


It is finally here!  Today the stream water is running fast and the pond is clear.  There is no ice blocking the way and salamanders are seen floating about, finding their strength.  It is the first day that I can look out onto the land and see the possibilities in our landscape, outbuildings and gardens.

We have our seeds which we ordered primarily from Hudson Valley Seed Library, supplemented with some standards from Seed Savers Exchange.  I am so excited to be buying from and supporting these two farms.  Both strive to bring our food production back into the hands of the small farmers and home gardeners while preserving and maintaining food heritage and diversity.  Hudson Valley Seed Library is especially great for us since they not only strive to create a sustainable seed community, but they also strive to create a local seed community by encouraging the growth of seed saving and highlighting seeds that are especially good to grow in NY.  

In choosing our seeds, we started with our hardiness zone and what we eat most.  From that we narrowed down the list to try and have an even harvest throughout the growing season, as opposed to having a huge spring crop and nothing in the fall.  We chose 4-5 different crops for each harvest, spring, summer, and fall (including crops that have several harvests), in addition to some herbs and salad.  We also chose crops that store well for a winter supply (like red onion, not good, vs. brown, store well).  Finally, we also wanted to have some unique varieties that aren't in the common grocery store.  And the winners are... 

Hudson Valley Seed Library:

Seed Savers Exchange:
Arriving in the fall, garlic- Lorz Italian(softneck, for braiding) and German Extra Hardy (hardneck, for scapes) 

Now I have to sit down and start concocting a garden plan, and finally I have the inspiration of this invigorating spring day to start.

can you guess what this is?