Friday, July 10, 2009

Best/Worst - graciela

My best and worst are both food related. I am a vegetarian, an environmentalist, and I am a nut about health advocacy.

The best part of my week has been seeing my plants develop and start to set flowers that will go on to create fruit. Right now I have a pimento pepper that is growing bigger by the day and I have the smallest little butternut squash that (hopefully) will become a full blown squash if the flower is pollinated. As a lifelong city dweller I've really kept myself in the dark about food production and the work, the techniques, and the amazing natural developments that go into planting a seed and producing food. It's something we all take for granted and a lot of us don't even know what the botanical plant of various fruits and veggies look like (I had no idea what artichoke looked like as a plant). We, as a society and culture, have pushed agriculture to certain spaces and areas of the country and we don't look within our own environment and community to do the dirty work. I look at all the manicured lawns in southern California, a climate that cannot sustain lush green grass without major consequences, and I think about the waste of space and water that could go into maintaining plants that will produce something useful. On my street alone, actually let's downscale, on the strip of grassy courtyard in my complex, we could feed all 16 units if we got rid of the grass and planted food. There is such a culture of waste that we've grown accustomed to and lawns in the middle of a drought are just another hit of collateral damage. Why should we grow food in our own yards when we can just go to the supermarket?


This morning, part of that question was answered. On a special segment of NPR they talked to people in central California, aptly dubbed, "America's food basket", and they discussed the climbing obesity and poverty rates in the region. A lot of it came down to economics, politics, the lack of infrastructure, and limited access to fresh fruits and veggies. Yes, the same region that feeds America and grows some of the best fruits, vegetables, and nuts can't even feed itself. Coronary terrorists like McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Carl's Jr have set up shop at all of these little towns. One of the residents of Kettleman City named off all of the opportunistic fast food joints that people eat at regularly and I knew exactly what she was talking about. While I lived in Northern California, I made the drive on the 5 between Sacramento and Los Angeles. I know all those stops like the back of my hand. There is nothing but junk food all along the way. These rural communities don't have enough grocery stores so one must travel far to get their 5-a day. Why not just go to their backyards? Up until last year, Fresno had a city ordinance that barred local Farmer's Markets from setting up shop. We have them all over the country and vendors still have to make a trip to get to various locales but the actual places where the food grows can't just sell it to their own community? Ridiculous, right?! I'd imagine that was a political and business interested ordinance that lacked any concern for the public. The central valley's problems go beyond just food and leak into problems of gangs, wild packs of dogs, severe poverty, drug use, and anything else you could think of that would limit a person to eat well and exercise regularly. Even these far flung communities are being affected by the problems that modernity brings and the consequences of a fat and unhealthy America.

With so much of the central valley's own food going out of the community to feed everyone else, I can only expect the situation to become worst as our climate continues to change, populations keep booming, suburbs and development encroaches on land, and we as citizens become more and more ignorant about what it REALLY means to eat. So any land or space available in the city to grow vegetables and fruit in the ground or in containers should be treated as the luxurious commodity that it is. One of these days, we'll be forced to feed ourselves and when that day comes, we'll be too full of Facebook and microchips to know what humans have known how to do for thousands of years before the middle of the 20th century. Growing food is not a mystery and the information is out there. I'll be harvesting peppers, you know where to find me, when you want to do it too.

No comments:

Post a Comment