I am experiencing a certain kind of truth every day in my work. It’s the kind of truth that one does not need to argue – the kind that does not depend on who is the more skillful debater. It’s the truth that I knew when I was six or seven years old – an undeniable, agenda-less, observed, felt-in-your-face truth. It’s the kind of straightforward truth adults have to laugh about, blushing, when children catch them with it.
In their hearts, local organic food producers relate to the land in this truthful way – caring, observing, learning, and adjusting, constantly and respectfully, as tenants of the land. They understand, accept and even embrace that it is nature that feeds us. Not the grocery store, not the food manufacturer, but something so much bigger. Working with farmers warms my heart, feeds my soul, and reminds me of my childhood’s innocence. What a precious gift this experience is.
This truthful and humble dialog with nature has endless rewards. At a time when the pressure of economics and development has caused the death of 400 family farms in the United States every week for the last 30 years – that’s 56 farms a day, or one farm every 25 minutes – small-scale local organic producers throughout the country are able to survive as we begin to remember the importance of the story of our food, to know where our food comes from and to care about how it was produced. At a time when signs around the San Francisco Bay warn us to not ingest more than one fish a month because of the toxic pollution levels in the water and bay bottom, the Coho salmon are beginning to return to Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate, after 30 years of near extinction.
A rise in awareness of and eco-literacy about the food we eat and the choices we make every day, is taking place.
In this context, the debate over “organic versus local” food production seems incomplete and missing the point, as neither one in itself offers a true solution. “Industrial organic” could mean that one single crop is grown on thousands of acres and then shipped halfway around the globe. This brings as many challenges to our society as local non-organic production, which could potentially mean that toxic pesticides are used closer to your home. Local and organic farmers who follow small-scale, artisan production methods and add a personal story to their work will thrive in the future because they offer a truly wholesome product. Theirs is the kind of food that respects life and nourishes not just our bodies, but our spirit, heart, environment, and community, as well.
In fact, by definition, food that tells the story of the land, the season and the farmer is the only real food that exists. According to Webster’s Dictionary, “food” is defined as “something that nourishes us” and “nourishment” is defined as “…to foster and sustain life” – attributes that many so-called “foods” in the marketplace no longer possess, or never had to begin with.
Even though our minds may forget that it is the land that feeds us, our bodies will not. Our love for the land is cellular.
So, the next time you hold that bunch of local organic carrots up to your nose to take a deep, earthy whiff of healthy soil, close your eyes for a moment, and pause. You might connect to something deep inside you and realize that by eating local organic food your innocence and internal truth is nurtured too.