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Food culture and Localvores

By Jaye Sudar

    In the depths of winter, most people aren′t thinking of gardens, fresh produce or farmers’ markets.  However, now is the time to be planning those gardens and finding your local sources for milk, eggs, chiles or other produce.

    Sixty years ago as America pulled out of the Dust Bowl Era, leading agriculturalists were planning the food culture we have today.  They believed that overproduction was the key to stopping hunger.  In post WWII nations, experts recommended moving away from traditional methods of farming to single-crop agriculture with the use of new chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  This happened in spite of Victory Gardens and all the methods used to increase food production during the war years.

    By the 1970s the problems with this form of agricultural revolution were beginning to be clear.  The band aids were applied, but the new ideas put forth were in the same vein:  bio-engineered foods and better living through chemistry.  Now as scientists look towards the future, they are working with the problems of climate change, a global economic depression, and a global food shortage.

    There is a quiet, grassroots revolution to reintroduce smaller family farms, organically raised foods, rotation of crops to control pests and other  more time-tested farming methods.  There is also a movement to change our food culture so that we search for foods that are locally grown and in season rather than eating foods that have been transported halfway around the world to come to us as an expensive out-of season delicacy.  Now, where does this leave us?

    Localvores are the key to changing our food habits.  Urban culture has left many people disconnected from where their food actually originates.  We need to reestablish our connection with the earth and local foods, which leads us back to gardening.

    Taking the initiative to shop locally or start a small garden is good for everyone.  Pulling weeds for ten minutes is stress relief.  Enjoying a meal you helped grow brings satisfaction.  Heading down to the hardware store and buying seeds and a few small tools is good for the local business.  Composting your garden waste rejuvenates the soil and improves the garden for next year.

    Gardening to harvest lovely tasting tomatoes or crisp salad greens is good for the planet as well as good for us.  Using chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides is not only killing the weeds, but the bees and other helpful insects.  Residues from those chemicals are in the foods we eat.  Home gardening and buying from local farmers helps build  a healthy ecosystem and a healthy economy as well as healthy children.

    Did you know that when the local coal miners weren′t mining coal that many of them were growing gardens and working on small truck farms? Walsenburg used to send railroad cars of cauliflower and other vegetables to Denver.  We were an agriculturally viable area.

    When you look  at the world from the viewpoint of a localvore, gardening makes sense.  Just think of the farmers’ market we could have next summer if even ten of us got rid of that water thirsty grass and planted a garden.  Imagine how we could change our little corner of the county with a few community gardens.

    So, when those seed catalogs start dropping in the mailbox in February, snuggle up with paper and pencil and plan out that dream garden.  Look forward to eating fresh tomatoes and piling all those extra zucchini in the front seat of your neighbor’s car.