By Deborah Mokma
Each summer, when our local farm stand offered its produce for sale to the community, my parents were sure to be on hand. My mother’s delight was obvious from the first ear of sweet corn she lovingly chose to the last tomato of the season.
A friend of my brother’s once commented at dinner that Mom treated the food on her plate with great care. This certainly was true. In fact, from the time of purchase, through careful storage (did you know that if you blow some air into a plastic produce bag before putting on the twizzle your greens will be protected from being crushed in the refrigerator?), to the healthy preparation of meals, care was the operative word.
Mom taught me to appreciate the gifts of fresh summer produce, and good food in general, by these excellent examples. In the 1980s, when she and Dad moved west to be near their grandchildren, one of the additional perks was being close enough to share in the bounty of my family’s garden, and eventually being able to experience planting a vegetable garden of their very own.
Fast forward to 2009. Nationwide, there has been a rise in vegetable gardening, inspired in no small part by the economy as well as concerns for food safety. We applaud this emerging cultural shift, and have included many articles on food in this issue with the hope of encouraging readers to consider the importance of healthy food choices, and, if they have not yet done so, to consider growing food to feed their families as well. There is great spiritual joy to be found in the tending of gardens, as well as an abundance of psychic and health giving nourishment that we can provide for ourselves, our families and friends.
Ohio farmer and author Gene Logsdon encourages us to consider growing grains, as well as vegetables, on a family scale. In fact, he explains that “the special advantage of grains for the organic gardener and farmer is that you can grow them more easily with organic methods than you can fruits and vegetables. All grains except corn will withstand low fertilization better than vegetables.”
Logsdon’s recently revised book, Small-Scale Grain Raising: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers, provides the basics and encourages even those with a small space to produce some of their own grain. See page 10 for an excerpt from this very informative book.
Eliot Coleman’s thirty plus years of winter gardening in the northeast offers another kind of encouragement—year round gardening. His latest book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, offers a practical model for supplying fresh, locally grown produce during the winter season with clear, concise details on greenhouse construction and maintenance, planting schedules, crop management, harvesting practices, and even marketing methods. Coleman uses unheated greenhouses on his Maine farm to grow food all year long, and carefully explains his methods so that even a novice can succeed in this uncertain sounding endeavor. Having winter gardened in the northwest for the past three decades, I can psychically attest to the fact that it is indeed possible, and highly enjoyable. At our current elevation of 2100 feet it’s as simple as placing a double layer of polyester spun fiber (like Remay) over the garden bed or row, using hoops or frames to support it. Thanks to this method we enjoy fresh greens, carrots, and onions all winter long.
As the discussion of sustainability and relocalizing economies continues, making good food choices is certainly high on the list of things we can all do. Sustainable business practices must also be on this list. The choice we have—business owners and shoppers alike—is whether or not we will continue to follow the “Business As Usual” model or embrace what Martin Melaver describes as “Nature as Usual” in his new book, Living Above the Store: Building a Business That Creates Value, Inspires Change, and Restores Land and Community.” In his book, Melaver examines the need to create businesses that seek to restore com-munities and environments with which they operate. His family’s story is an example of what is possible when conducting business with this intent: “The story of the evolution of our family business over 70 years has primarily taught me one thing. Sustainability is a four-letter word: SLOW. When my grandmother Annie opened a small corner grocery store in 1940, she was looking after the well-being of her husband and two children. But her business practices never interfered with her deep engagement in the community—closing the store on occasion to bring soup to an ailing neighbor, providing food on credit to those in the community who could barely scrape by.
“My father, who built that corner store into a supermarket business throughout southeast Georgia, had a similar value-centric focus. Our second grocery store was opened 20 years after the first, the third ten years later. Sure there was a drive and ambition to grow the business. But, again, that business focus was moderated by his and my mother’s attention to various social justice issues of the day—racial equality, adequate health-care and education for all, adequate food and shelter.”
With these thoughts in mind, in addition to encouraging our readers to check out Melaver’s book and the interview with him which appears on page 5 in this issue, I also recommend reading the current issue of Yes! Magazine, whose focus on jump starting local economies is a wonderful contribution to this conversation. In addition to posing the question “How can we make it with less, share more, and put people and the planet first,” Yes! observes “This downturn marks the end of an unsustainable economy. Rather than trying to reinflate the old bubble economy, let’s try something new.”
I couldn’t agree more, and invite you to join this movement towards “something new.”