Yesterday was a garden work day.
I planted tomatoes where the peas grew, tilled the soil where the rabbits had dined on my broccoli to put in hot peppers, and spent time mulching, weeding and watering. I made a dent in the work.
Without the bartering agreement at the CSA this year, the garden must produce and so far, it has.
What’s currently growing best is green beans, kale, carrots, garlic, herbs, tomatoes, herbs and daikon radishes. A lot of crops have a way to go before producing.
The relationship between food, retailers, diet, health, wellness, exercise and tradition is complicated. Almost too complicated. Understanding it is embedded in our culture and often we trade off one value for another. There are no absolutes.
A vivid narrative about food’s role in society was written by William Kamkwambe in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. He described the relationship of his family to food in Malawi, recounting the seasonality of the maize harvest, the relationship between the weather and land, and the role governmental organizations play in the food economy. The picture Kamkwambe paints is simplistic, and that’s why it is so vivid. It is the definition of subsistence living.
In the West we have a different approach. Everywhere around us there is an abundance of food. Grocery stores are filled with tens of thousands of items. A host of local farmers crowd each local market making diverse, seasonal produce available for reasonable prices. While there are people who are food insecure—who don’t know where their next meal is coming from—the food is available in the retail supply chain. The problem is often inadequate funds to buy it.
Adding value to raw materials is what business and industry does and this applies to food. Taking scraggly-looking produce from the garden, an experienced cook can make something from it to feed both the body and soul. If retailers derive a margin from processing raw ingredients into meals and other food items, there is still an inexpensive opportunity for people to cook themselves, even if busy schedules are an excuse to buy prepackaged, precooked meals or dine out.
In the six years since leaving my transportation career, food has been about developing a sustainable culture. It involved producing and preparing local food, but also commerce. It’s about getting along in society–and garden work days.