Living: Grow Some Food
Support your local farms -
as if your life depended on it.
The prosperity of recent decades has lured us to sleep. Like children,
we have grown to expect others to feed us. We might want to think
that one through again.
In the 1950s, as I was secretly hiding unwanted morsels of food
on a ledge under our yellow linoleum kitchen table, and my older
sister was slipping spaghetti through a crack in the floor , my
mother would tell us, “Eat your dinner. Children in India
are starving.” It had no impact on my willingness to eat
liver, but it was important information.
Fast forward a decade plus. Among our group of friends in the
60s, we occasionally called out, “Chinese law! Chinese law!”
None of us knew which Chinese law we were referring to, but we
knew what it meant. The person who sees problem is responsible
to do something about it. If I noticed that the car running out
of gas, trash in the yard or nothing in the frig, it was my job
to act. The potential for abuse of this law is apparent. If becoming
conscious requires action, then being oblivious has rewards. But
being oblivious can have dire consequences, especially when it
comes to food.
The world has shrunk since the 1950s. The pictures of the hungry
show up in our kitchens. “Chinese law!” Our knowledge
gives us both the responsibility and the privilege to do something
Recently, I had a bad dream. I was standing beside windows of
a large arena. There were cookies. I chose a large one with coconut
cream icing. A harsh wind began to blow. Outside, I saw buildings
around us crash down, and people struggling in the storm. I took
a bite of cookie.
I awoke in terror. It is not common for me to have nightmares,
nor to be afraid of wind. What frightened me in this dream was
that I watched the suffering and took a bite of cookie. I don’t
want to be the kind of person who unconsciously eats coconut cookies
while through the glass, at a safe distance, we hear news of food
riots and armored rice trucks.
Nothing like crisis to remind us of basic human needs. Food, clean
water, shelter, warmth. During the Great Depression in the US
in the 1930s, there was a wheel barrow full of money left in front
of a bank. Someone dumped the money and stole the wheelbarrow.
Food is primary.
“Chinese law!” If people are hungry, what shall we
do? One response of good conscience is to grow more food. Residents
of small planets - and small islands - are wise to make sure there
is enough food for everyone - close to home. The 100 Mile diet
is a brilliant idea. The 100 Yard diet is even better. Local food,
abundantly produced, close to home.
The importance of a self-sustaining food supply on Vancouver Island
cannot be over emphasized. Political instability, oil shortages
and unstable weather could affect our connection to the mainland.
The U.S. trade embargo forced Cuba to stop exports and to produce
their own food again. “Thousands of commercial urban gardens
grew up throughout the island... Land slated for development was
converted to acres of vegetable gardens that supplied markets
where local people bought tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes and other
crops. By 2004 Havana’s formerly vacant lots produced nearly
the city’s entire vegetable supply." (Montgomery, Cuba,
Because of climate change and fresh water supply, Canada may become
the new bread basket of the world. If the world is looking to
Canada for dinner, that’s all the more reason for us to
save farm land, protect natural watersheds (i.e.forests), and
get growing! Many people are. Salt Spring Seeds and Seeds of Victoria
are short on seeds this season because of the dramatic increase
in people growing their own food in backyard gardens.
An easy place to start? Grow Red Russian Kale, one of the new
super foods. It grows easily, tastes good, and reseeds. In June,
there is still time.
I was explaining to my 3-year-old granddaughter Elena about how
actions are like seeds. “If you do angry things, it’s
like planting an anger seed. You get anger back. If you plant
love seeds, you get love back. Squash seeds give you squash. Tomato
seeds give you tomatoes. Lettuce seeds give you lettuce.”
I wondered if she understood.
“So, Elena. What do you get when you plant a sunflower seed?”
”Love, “ she answered.
She got it.
Local references: Kathryn Gimmell, advocating for urban agriculture
in Oceanside in the successful SPIN model (www.spinfarming.com)
is looking for local urban land to produce food. Kale Force of
Powell River (www.kaleforce.wordpress.com) Carolyn Harriot and
Guy Dauncey of Victoria (www.earthfuture.com). Barb Ebell of Nanoose
Support your local farms - as if your life depended on it.