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My Fellow Farmers...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Go Farm Yourself: a Manifesto

Our food world is in disrepair. Our fellow countrymen are becoming a swollen, ignorant mass of indiscriminate consumers, bent on low prices and consequently, even lower nutritional value. Our countries kids are suffering as a bi-product, with increasingly more sedentary lifestyles as a catalyst. People in general simply do not know from where or how their food really comes to them. There are those that are fighting to bring it back to it’s origins, but their numbers pale in comparison to those pulling it further away from us. The need for people to be reintroduced to what they are eating is dire.

Plant gardens and make compost. Meet your nearby farmers and ranchers. Identify local producers of your main food items. Reuse rather than buying new.

Reprioritize. Don’t believe the hype.

Live creatively.

There was a 20% increase in 2008 of people planting home veggie gardens in America. Of course, much of this was due to the economy, but what better a way to kick-start people into action. Schools around the country are teaching kids all subjects with the garden/farm as a starting point. If the kiddos are excited about vegetables, you should be. Break out the overalls dad. I raised strawberries, garlic, tomatoes and potatoes out of an old claw foot tub in Steamboat, where the growing season is like 2 days. If you have dirt, you can have veggies. Nearly all your food and paper waste can be composted (and most others can be recycled). With minimal effort, you can have compost that is good enough to eat…and your garden will do just that. California is considering eliminating home trash bins, only to use compost and recycling containers! Compost is like veggie bling! Pimp your garden! I sit here, eating a fried green tomato with basil (and homemade queso fresco), both from a friends garden…my mouth is in lust. Go Farm Yourself!

I am just moving back to Colorado from living in Napa Valley, CA and the Olympic Peninsula, WA, (two of the most fervently growing and producing areas imaginable) and I’m knocked out by what Colorado is creating. I sat down one night last week and had Haystack Chevre (Lakewood), with beets and late season greens from a friends yard, local grass-fed beef from Mavericks and a neat Stranahans whiskey (both in Denver). Just because we have four seasons, and we’re about a mile up, by no means dictates that our stomachs must suffer. For anyone who loves food, I suggest that you take a day, and visit, or even better, work on one of our local farms. I’ve been working as a chef on a 400-acre organic farm in Wash State for the last year, and I have never known my ingredients (or the farmers that care for them) more intimately. In my estimation, I feel that local is a bit more important at this point than organic. Supporting your local foodshed and artisan producers’ keeps the money in your community, reduces wear, tear and the carbon footprint on your food and it simply tastes like where you live.

We as Americans have become well trained to discard and repurchase items the minute that they begin to fail. Though, as of late, I have noticed more duct taped, reconstituted and DIY fix jobs than ever before. The old, dusty shoe and watch repair shops are revitalized with customers not willing to let go of their trusted accoutrements. Even the hipster kids are diving into their mother’s justifiably discarded 80’s accessories, (perhaps this has little to do with sustainability, but thought I would try to give them some credit). Think about your “garbage” conscientiously. Fill your fridge with used glass and plastic water bottles, wash your Ziploc bags, install a grey water catch for use in your garden, or even make some cool, original art with the kiddos using items formerly earmarked for a landfill life. Compostable egg crate artwork?! Sustainable-chic!

Taking back our food system is a matter of reprioritization. With a bit more effort up front, (or perhaps a few cents more at the farmers market or Co-op) a considerate decision about where to buy and/or how to grow your food will reduce the overall cost in the end. The health of our population and land depends on a reinstated reverence of our food and the way in which we frame it. Listen to your body, not to commercials. Become a learned, conscientious consumer. Buy used gardening, horticulture and food books. Knowledge is sexy! Make food and life a bit more whimsical. Plant a garden, raise some chickens, compost, talk to vendors at the farmers markets, meet some new veggies, create something delicious and good for your soul! Let this be a message to the little, dreamy child in all of us: The World is our Farm, let’s care for it…and Chomp it up!

Go Farm Yourself - Mike