When I think about what a community needs to be healthy, sustainable and thriving, my mind goes immediately to food. You don’t have a 4th of July celebration without food and you don’t have a community without it either. But how do we get these healthy foods? Where do they come from? Who grows them? Some sustainable food advocates say that we will need 50 million new farmers to grow produce, meats & dairy locally. 50 million!? What can I do to help create such an explosion of participation in the farming arts?
While there are lots of elements required to make this shift (policy reform, land reform, capital, etc.), my current work with Harvest Moon Edible Landscapes focuses on education and culture change. On the surface, what we do is cute, delicious, perhaps even delightful. On a deeper level, it is our hope and intention to change people’s minds about where they get their food, how it is grown, who grows it, how agriculture can fit in with natural systems and how they themselves can participate more directly in all of this. To illustrate what I’m talking about, I’ll share a little story….
When we met Norma, her large lot on the outskirts of Minneapolis, Minnesota was grass, grass, a few border trees and more grass. Being a curious and open-minded person, she called us when she saw the article in her local paper about some folks who could help her grow food at home. And so, we added a 100-square-foot vegetable, herb and edible flower garden to her backyard – now in its third season and staggeringly gorgeous.
In doing this, it turned out that we were planting more than literal seeds. We were also planting the kind of seeds that expand minds, hearts and hands. Norma’s sons have since planted two apple trees, a plum tree, strawberries, a large row of rhubarb and another section of vegetables. They even have dreams of adding honeybees and chickens, and becoming a little permaculture oasis in the midst of the urban status quo.
Although we certainly can’t take credit for all the wonderfulness that is blooming in Norma’s yard, what we did and who we are catalyzed what she and her family were already pondering. Norma is now an educated, experienced and very passionate advocate for sustainable local food production as a result. Will her children become farmers? Perhaps. Will she influence other potential farmers? Of that, I have no doubt.
Norma’s story is heartwarming, inspiring, and thankfully, no longer unique. All over the US, individuals are waking up to the necessity and the beauty of a sustainable food system. Organizations like Harvest Moon Backyard Farmers are but one little piece of this complex and constantly evolving puzzle. My business partner Dina and I are most gratified to be doing this work – enjoying the summer sun, feeding our clients excellent produce and doing our part to foment the healthy food/Earth movement.
How will you plant the seeds needed for the sustainable vision that you see?
Image courtesy of Flickr CC @Willgame