I have not written much lately but I’ve got a dandy excuse. My cold turned into brochitis of some kind that ended up with an antibiotic and a bottle of codeine cough syrup. Some people can handle codeine. I am not one of them. It stopped the cough just fine but that loopy feeling it brought on was more than unpleasant. Most people tell me that it just makes them sleepy, but sleep eludes me. Instead, I find myself in a semi-conscious state in which which ideas without number flow through my head like little rafts on white water rapids, and I cannot grab hold of any one of them. Now that I’m done with that, I actually have a thought that has lingered for a few minutes, long enough for me to write about it. It has to do with the current idealistic trend toward eating only locally grown, preferably organic, produce.
I’m the chair of a local committee that is exploring ways to add value to our agricultural economic base in new and creative ways. I was confronted at our meeting earlier this week by the singular, evangelistic passion of a local farmer for whom this is the one, only and most critically important issue in agriculture today. No other issue even needs to be considered. People with that kind of passion are key to success in new ventures, but I’m not as eager as he is to make it a priority.
For one thing, there are very few regions in the country that are able to grow enough crops in enough variety to satisfy the needs of a local population. That is certainlhy our case. Our climate, weather and soils won’t allow it. What we are able to grow in quantity and quality is more than the local market can absorb. We need to export it to some other place. For us that means wheat used mostly for pasta, wine grapes and wine, onions, garbanzo beans, alfalpa seeds and canola. In the summer our valley produces wonderful fruits and vegetables that are sold almost exclusively in the local market. It’s a wonderful time of great abundance, but it ends by fall. But that does not end our desire for, and need of, fresh fruits and vegetables. So we import them from other places.
A bag of onions from Peru is on our kitchen counter. Carrots, cabbage, lettuce, green beans and more are in the regrigerator, most from somewhere south of the border, some from south of the equator. My coffee is from Ethiopia and my tea from S.E. Asia. What about your larder?
We, and probably you, can afford to eat this rich variety of healthy foods all year long. It is an immoral tragedy that the greater part of the world cannot do the same, and that’s true for far too many in our own small community and yours too. It is also an immoral tragedy that some, if not a majority, of the bounty that graces our table is the product of unjust labor practice bordering on slavery alog with a lack of stewardship of the land.
In the end, while I am very much in favor of as much locally grown and consumed produce as possible, I am much more concerned about healthy diets for the greater number provided by nutritious foods produced by fairly compensated labor using sustainable agricultural practices.