Week 5 (Chicago Week 3)

List of This Week’s Vegetables

  • Broccoli or purple peacock
  • romaine lettuce
  • rumpled red wave lettuce
  • snow peas
  • basil or dill
  • cucumber
  • radishes
  • kohlrabi
  • redventure heirloom celery
  • white egg turnip green with some root
  • parsley plant.

 

 

 

Getting food and farming back under our control

Why are you doing this? Why are you buying your vegetables in this way? Why are we growing them this way? Why are we all bucking a food system that seems so much more convenient?

If we could have a lively conversation together over this food every week, I’m sure the answers to those questions would fill volumes. I feel sure it would be empowering. For me, that one elusive word – empowering – is all I need to keep me going..

Pervading our culture and era is a sense that far too much that’s vital is spinning out of control. This especially relates, I think, to our food and our health – for ourselves, for our loved ones. 

Everyone reacts to powerlessness differently. Most probably recognize that factors at any moment can jostle us into or out of action to change what oppresses us. Sometimes, we’re moved to act. Other days, we can’t find will or motivation. 

My father died at 54 of cancer. Twenty-five years before his death, he did field work to feed 4 infants and babies under 6 years of age. The experience moved him to quit a vocation that didn’t make enough to feed us. He went to work in a chemical plant that processed soybean resins into 100s of products.

Dad died believing the chemicals he handled, breathed carried around on his clothing in that factory caused his death. Yet he had fought the cancer for 5 years and stuck it out in the chemical plant to his 25th anniversary on the job – to get an 80 percent pension for my mother.

Along Lyons Road off Scotch Hill, I think of my father as I jog in early mornings these days. I see his death again in the deaths of 100s, perhaps 1,000s, of native species plants succumbing in the ditches of this country road to drift from recent herbicide spraying. 

For 21 years, we’ve watched, helpless, powerless, to stop this spraying of 1000s of acres of soybeans and corn around our farmstead. It’s part of herbicide and pesticide applications annually on hundreds of millions of acres in the Upper Midwest.

We know other small-scale growers, especially through Wisconsin Farmers Union, who’ve shared the same feelings of a huge industrial agribusiness system, completely out of control. 

We’re indebted to you – our supportive community of vegetable subscribers, who’ve acted to take control as best you can of where your fresh produce is grown, how it’s grown, who grows it, and its varietal selection. Yet even in our chemical-free growing and eating together, we struggle to live, act with hope.

In his 2005 book, Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System, former Food First policy analyst Raj Patel deftly examines more than 100 years of food and farming history in the United States and the world that form the backdrop of the sense of things out of control and beyond common consumers’ power to control what happens where we live to our farms, our food, our health.

Patel shows the 1916 patented diagram of the first supermarket layout, which resembled a rat’s maze, driving an unsuspecting consumer public through alphabetized product aisles to “harvest” their food products. Within 8 years, a single “King Piggly Wiggly” self-serving store became 1,200 in a majority of states, and for the first time American consumers began to shop without even assistance or interaction of store clerks. 

We see here the underpinnings of today’s mass food system, which aimed to keep consumers ignorant of food sources, producers and practices as cost-saving measures, as a strategy to increase volumes of purchases individuals made. We see the very idea protected as property – purely to make money, control costs, control consumers, control markets. 

Awareness Patel’s research gives me melds with my personal sense of powerlessness. It disturbs any comfort I once held for now familiar supermarket stores on the eve of that first Pig’s 100th anniversary. “Outside an intensive care unit,” Patel writes, “there are few environments so obsessively monitored and reconfigured as supermarkets.”

 

The modern store in America – and now more and more, the world – is clearly all about money In a food and farming system that poisons what we eat, drink, breathe the comparison isn’t lost on this farmer. A culture and nearly four generations of consumers and growers now, need to return to what it’s really all about – health. CSA empowers us to be about health. That’s why we’re doing this.