Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is Home Grown Food Subversive?

We spent the weekend selling fresh vegetables and herbs at the 70th annual Dundas Plowing Match in Eastern Kings County PEI. It's a lovely old time affair celebrating local Agri - Culture and the local traditions and skills of farming. We go there each year to sell a bit of our organic produce, meet the neighbors, watch the horse teams and plowing competitions and generally enjoy a traditional country fair.

Today, at our market table, I was slicing off samples of our just-picked cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh herbs.
I offered a taste of our finest produce followed by a dab of fresh herbs...just to give fair goers a chance to put the taste of fresh, real, whole food on their palates.

A darling young girl of about 8 years came up to the table and looked over our selection. Then she shyly asked if she could have a slice of cucumber.  I said, "of course".  She picked one up, popped it into her mouth and scampered away.

A Francophone couple from New Brunswick came to the table and I offered them tastes of our lightly flavored Mediteranian cucumbers, our orange cherry tomato, and a bit of fresh basil.  The gentleman came back a few minutes later and asked me if he could have another basil top, "Because it smell so good!"

A bit later, a couple with several young children came up.  I offered them a taste of a just-picked ripe tomato,
a bit of fresh cilantro and a taste of basil. I joked with the parents that I was "subverting their children".  I said,
"Once they learn what fresh food tastes like, they won't want anything else."

I was kidding.  Until I thought about it.

Maybe it really is subversive, an act designed to overthrow the establishment, to offer fresh, clean, naturally grown food to people.                 

Powerful forces in our economy and our governments are continuing to move against small producers. And new legislation is pending in the states that could make it impossible for homestead and market garden producers to supply their neighbors with healthy local food.

The premise of the new regulation is food safety,  as though selling a few hand raised tomatoes to a neighbor is as risky as shipping e-coli tainted hamburger to 12 states. It seems to me that the real risk is that we will continue to reduce the number of producers until no small farms are left and government has only a handful  of "too big to fail" producers to support as rural communities die. I've met senior farmers who nearly go to tears when they tell me that after 5 generations, they are retiring off the land because the kids don't want the farm. In many places today, its just too hard for our young people to make a go of it.  

But that all seems too grim on a day when local people stepped up to buy a few beans, some herbs, a bit of squash and to take a moment to share the news in the Farmers Market at The Dundas Plowing Match.   

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