Before summer goes leaping into fall, as it can tend to do in these parts, I want to offer homage to it and to those who tend its landscape.
In early June, before the sun had reached its northernmost point in the sky and summer’s arrival in this hemisphere had not quite yet been heralded, I was lamenting in “Obesity, oh wait a minute“, about the “collective abdication” of societal nourishment due to the blurry division between culture and corporation. This was written in response to my learning about a local community sacrificing its citizenry for some petty reward from Arby’s–the fast food roast beef chain. The insidious mutiny of our taste buds and natural hungers by corporations who have invested deeply in behavioral psychology, flavor and gene manipulation and marketing in order to usurp our birthright of health, always makes me feel pretty yukky.
I quoted Dr. David Katz who asked, “If you know it’s important to control your weight and attend to your health, but almost everything in your environment and your culture conspires against such efforts- how responsible are you, personally? Are you truly personally irresponsible if you go with the prevailing flow?“
When one is swirling about in the prevailing flow, it is hard to either remember or to imagine a different current of possibility. For context, I remind that my work entails helping those who have not just gone with the flow, but who are drowning in it. While much about our modern food situation lurks in shadow, thankfully the enlightening sun continues on its ecliptic journey along the celestial sphere in spite of ourselves. When it reaches the right ascension: 6 hours; declination: 23.5 degrees on June 21st–the longest day of the year, the light shifts, the air warms, and we are blessed with the advent of summer. This is the season that offers the opportunity to paddle over to the river bank and to rest for a while.
At the solstice, the denizens of summer appear. Having spent months in preparation for this precious moment, this is when the sowers and reapers take to the fields, playing midwife to the earth’s fertile bounty that the warm sun beckons forth. One must move slowly and sit quietly to see them. Like little gnomes, hunched low to the ground or up in the trees, they are busy with their work, often in the early hours of the day. They tend to be wary and shy of the noise and bustle of the big cities and crowded highways. Sometimes they commune better with their animals than with people.
But, they are gentle and caring folk, and eventually, they step through the veil of the misty morning and come forth with their beautiful harvest–raspberries, blueberries, currants, peaches and plums, big bunches of leafy chard, heads of tender bibb lettuce, peas, and beans, luscious tomatoes, beets, and carrots pulled from the dirt, melons of many varieties, eggs laid from happy chickens, cheeses curdled from the milk of frolicking goats and tiny bundles of fragrant herbs.
As if awakening from a midsummer’s night dream, when we behold these offerings we are a bit uncertain at first about what is real–are we truly enamored of the jackass or are we brought to our senses by being reminded of what is truly beautiful and deeply nourishing? Can we actually claim this amazing food for ourselves and for our children as well? May we feel more resolute to decry the fodder that misrepresents itself by masquerading as food? It is possible.
Summertime provides me with many wonderful examples that creating new paradigms of food and feeding exist. Two urban, youth-focused programs include the Student Produce Project run by my friends at the Capital District Community Gardens; and the magical school-based Friendship Garden fertilized by many years of hard work and the amazing love of my dear friend, Susan Fowler. Susan is also a wonderful teacher and a whole lot more. Her students call her Mrs. Flower. With her corps of elementary students in her heart and at her side tending the crops, she has been an early crusader in the school gardening movement.
Farmer’s markets also always inspire. This summer, a day trip led me and Pete to the Saugerties Farmer’s Market in the beautiful and bountiful Hudson Valley. There, near the wonderful assemblage of growers, bakers and jelly makers I came upon an educational and artistic display about the health effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. Later, I kept wondering how did science meet such creative expression, so I traced my way to the work of the person responsible, Claudia McNulty. Claudia is a painter, designer, sculptor and seemingly, environmental activist as well. Her work is beautiful and thought-provoking. Claudia has provided some links to very important information through her Corn Porn GMO project. These include the Seralini GMO Rat Study and a video interview with an MIT scientist on the effects of the increased use of the herbicide RoundUp required by GMO crops. To appreciate our current health crises, it is essential to understand the influence of GMOs.
But, the earth tenders who most personally influenced my own summer were my friends Justine and Brian Denison, and their crew, the farmers at Denison Farm, providers of my Community Supported Agriculture share. They not only grew but also delivered the amazing produce that graced my own table and fed my family. The film, Radical Roots: Reawakening the Local Food Movement, by Patricia Lane, features their farm. The elements captured in this story really colored my thoughts and inspired me through these long sunny days. I hope it may do the same for you.
So, to all of summer’s tenders who work so hard as stewards of the land and take care to feed us all, I offer deep and profound thanks, and hope that the fall provides some well-deserved rest. And to summer itself, it is always sad to see you go, but thanks for giving respite from our busy year and for illuminating the ways we can re-route the prevailing flow that permits corporate control of our health and environment.
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In health, Elyn
Related Baker: Tess Beatrice at Sow Good Bakery--creatively conceived and beautifully presented delicious morsels all gluten-free, refined sugar-free, sometimes raw confections laced with unusual spices and topped with tender flower petals.
My Plate Haiku
Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones even bruise at too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten — every piece of fruit — had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone’s knees, someone’s aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before? by Alison Luterman, “What They Came For” (from The Sun magazine)