Thursday, December 6, 2012

World Soil Day - December 5 - Local Foods

I'll start right out by saying this blog post might seem like a ramble, but I hope I come around full circle eventually. An editor would make me write and re-write this posting, which of course is one benefit of personal blogging - no editor! Ok, let's get to work. :)

Here is my favorite Q&A from a recent interview with Barbara Kingsolver, my favorite author:

Q - Have you continued with the living traditions you outlined in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, or have your habits changed since then?

A - The way we eat as a family is the way we live in general. We try to avoid excessive consumption in every way, of resources, of fuels. The process we described in that book, of eating deliberately, of tending to the sources of our food, was very gratifying to us. It was a wonderful exercise both emotionally and socially to engage with the farmers in our region, to learn about the provenance of our food. It’s something we couldn’t go back on. When you have a conversion like that, you don’t leave it. We do what we do because it makes us happy.

I forget which of our friends told me that visiting our farm felt like she was with Barbara Kingsolver. Her comment was an honor I felt deeply, and with happiness, too. :)

Secret revealed here - during the years I traveled around the country speaking (long before I started this blog in 2007), I had this wild fantastical hope that I would walk onto the airplane, find my seat, and see Barbara Kingsolver sitting next to me. Gasp! I don't know if I would have even had the courage to speak to her, the desire to interrupt her privacy, knowing it was possible I might reveal to her that I wrote a book but I am a 'small author' compared to her influence, that over the years I have spent more time reading professional journals/research than literature but somehow I found her books devouring every one she has written, reading or listening to several more than once, even before she wrote my favorite book of hers, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. 

People often ask me where to start reading about the 'local food movement', whatever that phrase and concept entails. I could say read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. However, I don't (that comes 'second'). I say "Don't start by reading! Instead, first start by doing! Start by eating and tasting the difference between a food locally grown versus that same food shipped in from another part of the country (or the world)! To do that, shop at your local farmers' market this week, look around to see what is being offered this week (i.e. what is 'in season'), choose one favorite food that you see for sale, introduce yourself to the farmer, thank him or her for growing it, and then bring that food home to cook, eat, taste, and celebrate." 

I will interject here that every market has different goals and 'rules' about who may be a vendor and what they may bring, so it is important to either ask the farmer (or the market manager) where the food came from to ensure you are purchasing something grown by that farmer. Eventually, you will start asking questions about a farmer's agricultural practices, how the food was grown (signs that say "no spray" really don't mean very much - even I don't know how to interpret that phrase!). Please don't be shy about asking these questions. We welcome them, embrace them, which gives us a chance to discuss and share with you the love and deep sense of responsibility we have for our soil, our crops, and the health of our community. 

Second, purchase or request Animal, Vegetable, Miracle from the library (it is also on CD with Barbara Kingsolver reading it herself). To understand more about this phrase "the local food movement", savor this book, do not race through it. Try several of the recipes contributed by her daughter Camille. Read and re-read the succinct sidebars written by her husband explaining some of the complex concepts involved with our current agriculture and food system and the benefits of changing to one that is more local, more regional, more involved with a sense of place and a sense of provenance as Barbara Kingsolver noted in her response above, which I understand to be both valuing and bestowing a sense of authenticity to our foods' origins. 

Yesterday December 5th was World Soil Day, a day to value and celebrate the few top inches of planet Earth, our home as humans beings, as a most precious natural resource that without proper use and care, civilization as we know it will not continue to thrive, and may not survive (Dirt: Erosion of Civilization by David Montgomery is one of the most informative and powerful books I have read). 

Our love of growing healthy food for our local community starts with our love and respect for the soil on our own farm and encompassing and embracing the community of wild things that live in our soil and on our farm. Nourishing and restoring the health of the soil on our farm, our local eco-system, is our "Job #1". Doing so also brings us full happiness. 

I don't know the history of World Soil Day and have not had time to look it up right now. However, I am grateful that someone somewhere had the wisdom, foresight, and know-how to have a day set aside globally to raise awareness and celebrate our soil. 

I have not seen bumper stickers that say "No Soil, No Food" but in a nutshell that is the message of the book Dirt: An Erosion of Civilization by David Montgomery mentioned above. A better bumper sticker would be "Celebrate Local Soil and Foods", which may be too corny and/or long to put a bumper sticker, but you can see where I am going and what we strive for on our farm. 

I don't know if Barbara Kingsolver's interview was timed to coincide with World Soil Day (I doubt it), but I enjoyed making the connection between her and our farm. I'll leave you with words and a beautiful image from Aldo Leopold, another of my (few) favorite and inspirational writers:

Land is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy that flows 
through a  circuit of soils, plants, and animals. 

~~ Aldo Leopold, from 'The Land Ethic', 
An essay within A Sand County Almanac, 1949

I have no idea if or how anyone actually celebrated World Soil Day. I will put it on my calendar for 2013 and remind us all to honor and celebrate our local soil and local foods on that day with one simple act, thanking our local farmers for connecting us to and nurturing the soil that feeds us. :) 

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

PS - Barbara Kingsolver states in her interview, she 'needs' to write, and her struggle is leaving the computer. Like her, I 'needed' to write this post. I could have/should have been doing many other things for our farm, but at least I combined writing this post with occasionally stirring home-made granola baking in the oven. The house smells wonderful, but the granola is done, this is all the time I have right now, so I hope no editor shows up to make me re-write this post to be less disjointed. I also hope I started and ended in approximately the same place. :)


Susanna said...

I love Barbara Kingsolver, too. But I, who call myself a "writer" do NOT have her problem of leaving the computer, if you can call it a problem! I can't remember the last thing I wrote for pleasure.
FYI: there is a movie on Netflix instant called Dirt! The Movie, a documentary. I haven't watched it yet, but it's on the list! The 5th would have been the day to watch it, but better late than never!

Diana Dyer said...

I have not yet seen Dirt. Thanks for the suggestion. I'm waiting to see Green Fire, the story of Aldo Leopold, which is supposed to be on PBS next April to coincide with Earth Day. There is also a documentary called The Symphony of the Soil, which I want to see sometime, somewhere.

Ah, writing for pleasure.......I write this blog for pleasure. I have so many ideas. I don't get snippets written down all the time, but I try to keep track of ideas for future posts. The poet Mary Oliver keeps a small notebook with her to capture a few ideas, a few words which she calls Sand Dabs, all to use later, although she also includes some in her books.

Some of my posts are derived from articles I read about cancer survivorship, but more are derived from thoughts and feelings from which I let the ideas find my words. There is immense pleasure (and surprise) in watching that process unfold. I hope you just start writing for pleasure. Sharing comes later, just start writing!

I also hope you see us when you come home, even if for only an hour. :)