To grow and to feed

My time writing here has given me more than a simple appreciation for breakfast. It has seen me develop as someone who cares about food. Being a part of the food blogosphere has kept me thinking about the role food plays in my life and the lives of those around me. I try, to varying degrees of success, to think of ways to have my passion line up with what I’m doing every day. So far it has worked out pretty well for me; I’m at Farmer’s Markets five days a week and have been connecting with the people that grow the food that I eat. The little tiny Michael Pollan that sits on my shoulder telling me not to eat at the Squeeze-Inn thinks that’s pretty cool but the prevailing winds of food politics are shifting from self-congratulatory to the realization that food systems need to change fundamentally if we are to be a healthier society. Michael Pollan is no longer satisfied that I eat locally, he wants all of us to eat locally. Michael Pollan’s appetite for sociogastronomical change is never sated.

It shouldn’t be; there’s so much to do. I live within two miles of four farmer’s markets. I can be in the produce section of one of three supermarkets in fifteen minutes by bicycle. Food academics speak a lot about food security, a concept that describes a person or family’s access to sufficient and nutritious food (thanks, Meg). Between the location of my house, the nature of my job and the nutritional content of the food I have access to, I have high food security.

Where were we? That’s right, why Michael Pollan isn’t coming to my birthday party. It isn’t enough that I started growing tomatoes and cukes and shook hands with the guy who grows my onions. I’ve never known hunger, I don’t have diabetes and I don’t work to support a family on a blue collar wage. New foodies can sit around and have locavore dinners and talk about how they haven’t eaten corn syrup since the election but it doesn’t change the price of a Little Caesar’s Hot ‘N’ Ready in Knights Landing. What I mean is that a great deal of rural and urban families have limited access to fresh ingredients and whether or not I can name the farm from whence my beets came doesn’t matter one pinto bean to them. So what is the answer? In short, it is to change attitudes toward food as well as public and private spaces. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Here in Sacramento, we have some pretty amazing organizations that are working to put fresh foods back into the hands of working families. Freedom Farms is literally giving away local produce to Sacramentans who need it/want it/promise to use it.

Freedom’s produce comes from community gardens planted through grants and donations. The gardens are spread out in the increasingly revitalized Oak Park neighborhood and are maintained by volunteers.

I have a vision for something similar. So similar, that when Sally broke the news to me that “there’s already a guy doing that down at McClatchy” I was kind of pissed. After I got over that selfish “but I want to change the world!!!” reaction I shaped up. What I propose is different. My vision departs from that of Freedom Farms in where we grow as well as how we sustain ourselves. While the “pay-what-you-can” system does a good job of getting foods into the hands of those who need it, it necessarily can’t stand on its own. By shifting x% of the harvest toward value added foods like pickles, jams, chutneys and salsas and selling that to the foodies who can afford to pay the premium for food grown not just locally, but in their metropolitan area, then a system of socially responsible local ag could be viable and expansive.

That’s the plan. Sounds easy enough, right? I bring this to you, the reader, to let you know why the recipes haven’t been exactly forthcoming. I’ve been feeling listless about the direction of my endeavors and I think using this space as an outlet for both my morning cookery as well as my dream through might be the trick to bring a renewed sense of purposes to these pages.

This idea needs a lot of feedback, so write me if you know of anyone in your neck of the woods doing anything similarm any good books or online resources, of if you know of some highly productive backyard gardens in your ‘hood. I’m going to be devoting a lot of time to meeting gardeners, local ag folks, basically anybody who might have something to offer. If you want to get involved, email me. Let’s grow.


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