Ways of Seeing: Food is both salvation and destruction

It finally stopped raining today so I got on my bike to pick up my vegetables at Elmer Farm. Since I live in what is possibly the shadiest spot in Addison County (and I mean shady as in lack of sunshine, not in the illicit activity sense of the word) it’s difficult to grow a garden here.
I feel so lucky that Jennifer and Spencer Blackwell took over the historic Elmer Farm to grow organic vegetables for our community. When I pick up my produce each week I can also buy locally baked bread and meat from another nearby farm. I can go out into the field and harvest sugar snap peas. And the flowers! Jennifer plants unusual varieties of all kinds of blossoms. Sometimes when I’m out in the flower field, cutting a bouquet alongside kids, moms, dads, and grandparents, I feel like I’m in heaven.
Growing all this delicious food is hard work. I bow in gratitude to Jennifer, Spencer, and their farm helpers, who spend countless hours in the muddy fields, coaxing this bounty out of the earth.
I usually run into several friends while I’m choosing my beets, cucumbers, and lettuce. I chat with Jennifer and Spencer and watch the kids chase chickens around the yard. The adults swap recipes while the children switch from chasing chickens to capturing frogs and setting them free in the kiddie pool.
When I get home with my heavy pack, I decide what to make for dinner. After all the rain, the river outside my house is raging. I watch it for awhile, in awe of the power of this huge amount of water pouring down from the mountains. Our existence here feels so fragile. All over the world, climate change threatens people who live near the water’s edge.
How much of the damage being inflicted on our planet is caused by food production and distribution? Whether it’s animals fattened on feedlots, heavily sprayed vegetables shipped from California, or high fructose corn syrup-laden beverages, the way most Americans eat is killing our beautiful earth.
As Michael Pollan, and other food experts, have pointed out, if you are poor it’s hard to eat healthy. In the supermarket, the real food is all around the edges of the building (produce, meat, dairy, eggs). Pretty much the entire inside of the store is over packaged empty calorie “food” that causes heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other medical problems that are sinking the health of our country.
How beautiful would it be if every single neighborhood in our whole country had its own small farm? If we could all bike or walk to pick up our weekly veggies? If butchers, bakers and jam makers had a place to sell their wares? Think of all the green jobs that would be created if we could kick our addiction to industrialized agriculture, fast food and empty calories.
John Lennon said it best: “You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.” I hope someday you will join us, and all people can have healthy food to eat!
Joanna Colwell is the director of Otter Creek Yoga in Middlebury’s Marble Works District. She lives in East Middlebury with her husband, daughter, father-in-law, and two cats. Feedback for this and other columns warmly welcomed: [email protected]

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