Week 5 (Chicago Week 3)

List of this week's vegetables

  • Misspoona greens
  • Oregon giant Snow Peas
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Bright Lights Chard
  • Kohlrabi
  • Garlic scapes
  • Beets
  • Mixed lettuce
  • White icicle radishes
  • Broccoli
  • Basil 

Feeding community, restoring the balance

Sustenance seems to be largely a forgotten word. The idea of providing just the right portions of food to nourish and sustain the human body is hard to reconcile in a land advertising all manner of buffets.

I confess that in the early years, when I ran from off-farm job to farm work, constantly back and forth, I stuffed food into myself beyond what my body needed. It eventually made me sick.

Being able to focus on farming and eating from what we grow has brought my body and soul into balance. My eyes are so filled with images of whole fields growing in balance with Nature, that my body is satisfied with less.

It’s been odd to me for many years to hear conventional farmers ask patronizingly, “Who is going to feed the world?” The question is used to justify a whole system of industrial scale practices employed to grow largely commodities – for processed foods, for agro-fuels, for confined animal feeding operations.  

An amazing Baltimore Sun investigative series I read 15 years ago soundly skewered this notion. One would have thought it laid to rest. The 5-part series, titled “Feeding the world, poisoning the planet,” systematically examined – with interviews around the globe the effects of chemical fertilizer. They portend ecological calamity everywhere there is water and thus leaching and runoff.

Researchers attribute this single invention (little more than 100 years old) to at least one-third of Earth’s recent population boom. It added at least 2 billion people to a human mass now spiraling out of proportion to the world’s resources and ability to sustain us.

As we worked this past week to grow food that does not poison anyone or anything, I paused for a moment to look at our work. It was 92 degrees F. I was very tired. I set down the wheel hoe and drew near to Dela. She was across the field from me working steadily down a double row of 280 tomato plants, tying them with twine. I looked up from the focused details, my plodding pace of work, minute-by-minute, day-by-day.

I gazed at what we’ve accomplished in the start to this season, what we’ve accomplished in a lifetime. Before us was a beautiful expanse of vegetable crops growing in rotation with hay, winter rye, winter wheat and oats. From seed to plate each week, there is no less than 4 months’ work. In our capacity to grow, in the soil’s capacity to sustain and nourish, is 30 years of commitment and persistence on our part.

I marveled for a few minutes what a couple of 60-somethings, with family and your support, have been able to accomplish. Yet I feel strongly from these images of the fields, the rows of growing plants, the nourished soil, a sense of urgency for the poisoned planet.

In a truly sustainable world, Nature is not raped. Land is not merely exploitable space, waiting for developers and speculators to cover it with projects to make money.

Sustainability thinks beyond appetite and income. Animals and birds are not limited in perception and use to what we can domesticate, eat, or sell. Insects – as invaluable pollinators, biological beneficials, predators on harmful bugs and key parts of the food chain – are not poisoned. Plant processes are not undermined or manipulated for private gain.

Any company or business person who would use the sustainable moniker or exploit the word for commercial purpose ought to be held to standards, as organic growers are now by federal law. Chemical fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia, cannot be part of a truly sustainable system.

Understanding sustenance, contributes broadly, richly to a genuinely satisfying way of eating and living. It really does sustain us – if we let it. This is what you are doing each week, each season.  This is what you have paid for. It is sustenance. If you make the time to cook it, prepare it, or preserve it. You are helping bring the world into balance, into sustainability.