Fall greetings, though these days feel a bit like it did this spring. Wonderful moisture in the ground, days are warm and many plants are thriving! When the rains in California begin it always means life returns to the soil and plant world outside of our irrigated farms and gardens, and I love when it does so! This week’s warmth is great for the last flush of summer crops and perfect for growth of the cabbage, broccoli, and other winter crops that are either in the ground or growing on in pots. By November 1, my basil, squash, cucumbers and peppers will be done and I will plant garlic and the winter escarole/endives and kohlrabi that I started from seed as soon as I returned from Italy.
I was very lucky to attend the Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy at the end of September and saw some of the surrounding region afterwards. It was an amazing experience; you can see a bit about the conference here http://www.slowfood.com/terra-madre-salone-del-gusto-2016-concludes-wave-positive-energy/.
And I really appreciated seeing so much agriculture as I traveled around as well as natural landscapes and forests while hiking in the hills above the coast.
Returning to Sonoma County, I felt incredibly grateful to live in such a beautiful area with many people who care about our world and each other. And, I have a fresh perspective on our gardens and “food system”. Peasant farming involves 60% of the world’s population and provides 70% of their food and feed. For them, growing food is survival, but also about their intimate connections with the land, culture and families going back many generations.
I had a very sad feeling about how disconnected many of us Americans, (except Native Americans), are from our ancestral roots, land and traditions.
But I also felt re-energized about the importance of home food production and community gardens. As costs for land and labor continue to rise, one of the few ways low income people will be able to get high quality fresh produce is to grow it themselves. I learned that in many other cities even here in the US, city parks are used for food production in public-private partnerships that create jobs and educate youth about nutrition, growing food and running a business.
As an agricultural county, perhaps we are complacent about the need for urban ag? But we are also suffering from a problematic public disconnect with agriculture, which could be remedied in part by integrating food production more into our urban landscapes.
Terra Madre had what some would consider a “radical” agenda – the transformation of our political and economic systems to ones based on local control, respect for biological and human diversity, and food sovereignty. Part of the process of this transformation is to opt out of the current “system” whenever possible. It’s not just where we shop, but whether we shop, where we keep our money, and how our needs are met. More than ever, I feel that growing even a little of one’s own food does more than get us in touch with the seasons, the soil, birds and plants, provide the highest nutrient food at the lowest cost, and a wonderful family and/or community activity. Doing so also is an alternative to consumer culture for providing a very basic need.
So as the gardening season is grows to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on how your garden did this year and take notes that will help with future planning, and also to think about why you grow food and how you can share this miracle of food from the soil with others.