Friday, May 30, 2008

"You Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone"

Carole King's refrain bubbled up the other day while I was sniffing and fondling vegetables at my local farmer's market. I am a passionate consumer of fruits and vegetables, though the USDA's food pyramid's guidelines of at least five servings per day, weighs me down. Adherence to the food pyramid would easily layer on another ten pounds per year.

The City of Orange, California recently sanctioned a Thursday farmer's market in a mall's parking lot. Previously the closest sizeable market was 20 miles away. With gas in Southern California now at $4.20 per gallon and climbing, miles matter more.

The refrain recall connected me back to that small farm of my youth outside of Logansport, Indiana. Those were far from halcyon days, but they are remembered now more wistfully than not. Growing up, the naturalness of the four seasons and the annual evolution of plant life seemed integrated into who we were. We were our own farmer's market. Sitting down to eat what we harvested that day connected us to each other and to our environment.

We rarely think about that life until it is gone. This relationship with our nourishing land (assuming we are proper stewards of it) is an art now lost in most of the country, though there is a minor movement back. Barbara Kingsolver's (one of my favorite authors) latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle speaks to this.

My vegetable standards have risen in recent years, buying more organic items, and pondering the carbon footprints of supermarket servings. Most supermarkets import fresh or somewhat fresh foodstuffs from all over the world, year around. But if you're even remotely paying attention to that non-controversial global warming "controversy", you don't want to see a carbon-mapping of that food distribution system. You will have oil all over your hands.

My food and beverage shopping stops now total seven outlets, though 50% comes from one supermarket, which is also the closest of the seven.

It is tempting to turn our small backyard into a vegetable garden, building upon my herb patch, and lime and lemon trees. But I suspect my neighborhood association vigilante committee would turn me in for not seeking landscaping approval. Besides, our dog wouldn't have a place to dig.

This past Thursday at the mall market, I bought asparagus, arugula, heirloom baby tomatoes, broccoli, baby carrots, and strawberries, all organically-grown. Some vendors had traveled from as far as Fresno, four hours north. I have no idea how these vendors are selected or self-selected, but four hours seems far, and gas-guzzling.

If you are metropolis or suburb-opolis based like me, do some research and find the nearest and best farmer's market. Support your local, or somewhat local, farmers. They learned more in cow college than just coddling cows.


feistysideoffifty said...

Thanks, Keith, for that great reminder about shopping locally and organically. I'm sorry to say that, in my life, many time convenience overrules both of these important concepts. However, when you stop to think about personal health and the health of the planet, how much can a few extra minutes really be cost you?
I vow to reform and eat happily and healthfully ever after--well, mostly, that is--still gotta have those corn chips every once in a while!

L.C.McCabe said...

Cow college?

Are you talking about my alma mater Michigan State University (affectionately known as Moo U?)