The Green Acres Syndrome

by

 

Remember Eva Gabor yelping, “Goodbye City Life!”  Well, I’m having my Eva Gabor moment. There
was a time in my life when I wore red fingernail polish, uh, actually had
finger nails, kept high heels under my desk for those special times and had
more suits than pairs of jeans. 
Life has changed and I’m not complaining, as we made some conscious life
changes and living the way we do requires time and effort. We’ve gone through
our first full orto season and as I clean the canning pot yet again, it leads
me to wonder when the backlash to local, slow, seasonal eating is going to
occur.

 

Bread and Baisl  It’s wonderful to plant a garden in the spring; the little plants
are so full of the promise of good things to come. Then summer comes and you
eat tomatoes until you burst. Then fall blows in…and by now, you are flummoxed
about what to do with yet another large batch of produce.  I’ve canned tomatoes until my fingers
shriveled, figs are embedded in my shoes and my rugs, and I even ground my own
grape skin flour! And this morning, I’ve got liters of limoncello waiting to be
bottled.

 

I’m not complaining, but I do wonder how many other people
would do this. People who eat local for a year get a book deal! OK people, this
is not Everyman stuff if you get a book deal.

 

I think its high time for the media to stop taking the easy
way out and publish every word that falls out of Michael Pollen’s mouth, and
I’m taking the easy way out here by making him the fall guy for what I perceive
as an over-simplification. I’m thrilled that Michelle Obama has a garden at the
White House, but not for a second do I think she’s loosing sleep over what to
do with the green tomatoes that are still on the vine.

 

There has been a huge disconnect from our food source, and
I’m completely in favor of acknowledging that chickens actually die to make
Chicken McNuggets, but expecting people to grow their own, eat only in season
or not eat any food that’s traveled more than 50 miles, is just plain nuts. It’s
also not going to solve the problem of e.coli in frozen hamburger patties or
spinach, because the bulk of the population uses bagged spinach and stashes
frozen hamburger in the freezer. Its time to open up the discussion to reality:
food will need to be mass grown to feed the masses, it will need to go through
distribution centers, but that doesn’t’ mean that we shouldn’t take a good hard
look at what’s going on and fix it.

 

Ask yourself some questions:

Are you willing to wash your own spinach, cut up your
carrots?

Are you willing to travel to find a good, responsible
butcher, pay more for your meat, and probably eat less of it?

Are you willing to eat fish that hasn’t been filleted and
still looks like a fish?

Are you willing to give up coffee or olive oil, because not
that many of us live close to coffee growers or olive groves?

Or what about that gorgeous Australian syrah you recently
tasted. Willing to give that up?

Are you willing to give up sleeping in on a Saturday morning
so that you can weed the garden?

Do you know how to make a pie crust? Bringing in the sheaves (1)

 

None of us are saints; everyone has something they don’t
want to do without and I’m not advocate of paralyzing food guilt. Not all of us
are cut out for the Little House on the Prairie routine and I’m absolutely
certain that if a woman from the mythical Old West Prairie was to drop down
into a 21st century kitchen she would sink down on her knees in
tears of gratitude.

 

So, let’s step up the discussion and stop damning all that
is mass produced or shipped, stop feeling guilty for buying potato chips
instead of growing the potatoes, and start getting creative in our thinking
about how to fix what is wrong with our food distribution systems. We should
move beyond sound bytes and media slogans to truly, honestly debate how to
develop a sustainable food model.

 

5 Responses to "The Green Acres Syndrome"
  1. Like with anything, Judith, extremist positions rarely (if ever) do anyone or anything any good. That includes local food extremism. I eat local when reasonable and feasible, which is most of the time, but I think that it is more important to nurture quality wherever it comes from than to stick to a strict, hardnosed philosophy. It is just as important to help quality, fair-trade cacao growers half-way around the globe as it is the local farm. The real goal should be to nurture biodiversity and to keep the world’s green areas productive, but not all producing the same products.

  2. While I don’t see the gathering storm of any sort of ‘backlash’ against locally sourced food(and I admit, living in Portland, OR is a bit of a bubble), I do believe that any solution to developing a sustainable food model has to take into account the very real damage that is occuring to the evironment right now. The rapid melting of the ice caps may force us to grow some of our own food, etc. While it’s not practical in any case to get everything local, the continued shipping and mass producing system not only is harming the planet, but isn’t making us healthier. Pollan to me, is merely contributing to the needed dialog needed for arriving at a more sustainable food distro system. And, as an African American, I can tell you from experience, that other inner city communities are not being served very well by the current food distribution system.

  3. Ciao Eric….and yet another
    Portlander! Im beginning to think that NYC is no longer the center of
    the universe, that title now belongs to Portland.

    You are spot on in your assessment. Im not sure I see a gathering
    storm so much as creeping ennui. Someone who plants a garden with all
    good intentions but then realizes just how much effort it takes and
    then lets the whole project go to seed.

    Food distribution, now theres a loaded topic. The knee jerk reaction
    is to say that yes, food traveling is harming the planet, but this
    requires some additional thought. Certain geographical locations are
    going to be better suited to growing certain types of things and
    forcing something to grow in an area where it is not native might not
    be the best use of resources. As an example, our part of Umbria has
    grown tobacco for centuries, the Italian government subsidized tobacco
    until recently. Unfortunately, tobacco takes a lot of water and this
    area has become hotter and drier over the years and there is an
    enormous amount of water used to irrigate that tobacco. As the
    subsidies have recently ended, we are seeing many more sunflowers being
    planted, which consume less water, but bring in far less money.

    The other consideration is economies of scale. Its cheaper, more
    efficient, more green and clean to ship large quantities than small.
    Every little truck that drives into the farmers market is contributing
    to a less economic and green method of delivering food to inner cities.
    Did you know that UPS trucks have their routes planned to minimize left
    turns and save gas? Unless everyone is biking into the market, that
    would mean the vendors and the shoppers; farmers markets are
    spectacularly inefficient. And yes, we drive every Wes. morning to our
    local farmers market, so Im as hypocritical as anyone.

    Heres a question: I hear you when you say inner city communities are
    not being serviced, but what exactly are you searching for? When Im in
    NYC, I shop in the ethnic markets (Chinese, Spanish or Indian)
    depending on what I need that day. Does Portland have ethnic community
    shopping? I know you have a huge, incredible, beyond belief Viet Namese
    grocery store.

    Eric, thank you for stopping by, and please lets continue this
    conversation. Its the exchange of ideas that leads to new ideas and
    solutions, not hacking away at the same old, same old.

    Ciao.

    Judith

  4. Judith: when I refer to the lack of options in the inner cities such as West, Oakland, CA and others, I’m talking about the dearth of shopping options such as they exist in more affluent communites, not the availibility of ethinic markets. I live in an area of Portland(east side, west of I-205)that has a Asian shopping ctr(Fubonn to be exact) and Uwajamaya in the West Side, plus a small tienda for Sud America fare, so I’m pretty lucky. Many places that have heavily AA populations such as W. Oakland, have to depend on liquor stores and McDonald’s for sustanance. The “food justice” movement attempts to address this imbalance, by getting people in these underserved communities to grow their own food and create opportunities to provide better, healthier options, such as the People’s Grocery in West Oakland: http://www.peoplesgrocery.org/index.php?topic=aboutus

    I believe that alot of us who see ourselves as localvores, etc. need to seriously address the structural racism involved in the inadequate availibility of healthy options for these communities for sustainablility to become more inclusive in it’s approach.

    Finally, I applaud the fact that you are highlighting the obsticles in attempting to attain our oft-mentioned goals of sustainability and having locally-sourced food. I consider this a much-needed ‘reality check’ to the current pie-in-the-sky stuff being put out these days! Whilst CSA’s and buying direct from farmers doesn’t address the issue of carbon footprints, in alot of ways, it’s more efficient than farmer’s markets, as you’ve mentioned(although I can use our great transit system to get to many Farmer’s Markets round town :)) And, as knee-jerk as I may have sounded, we simply must do something despite the obsticles you’ve mentioned, and make the tough choices that are gonna have to be made to save ourselves from ourselves.

    Ciao.

    eb

  5. As a Canadian who lives in a climate where to eat locally 365/24/7 you’d have to make canning your full time job for the months of August and September all I can say is Word, Word, Wordy McWord!

    I have a smart friend who says that we should all live by these words: “everything in moderation including moderation”. Wise.

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