Thursday, November 5, 2009

Food is Community: November 2009

Given the role of Thanksgiving in American history and lore, November seems the perfect time to remember that food is about nourishment of the body and soul.  The collective sharing, or breaking of the bread, gives the moment of the feast a transformative power to unite communities.  In this generation, that meaning may be different, but the lesson is the same as it was in the harvest celebration of 1621 - food is life, food is community and food is love.  As the blog highlights these issues periodically in November, I invite and encourage comment when you can - the idea of community on the blogisphere is the sharing of ideas.  

Part 1: The Cider House Rules or The Farm

As it was in the seventeenth century, our source of food is still primarily American agriculture, but its face has changed drastically.  We are the generation that has waged war on the factory farm, though it may take another generation to make it right.  Interested?  Check out "Handpicked", an article that appears in this past Sunday's New York Times Sunday Magazine (October 27, 2009), reports on the modern version of the family farm.  The story chronicles the struggles of the former owners of acclaimed Napa restaurant French Laundry, to buy, run, and recreate a biodynamic apple farm.  The new generation of farmers in New England as well as New York, Pennsylvania and California and many other agriculture states have found a way to survive practicing "value-added" farming and producing a gourmet product or experience for the consumer so that the farm is not saddled to market prices. The results, when successful, are amazing culinary experiences and delicious products.
Blue Hill Farm is the ultimate success story in this regard.  With a farm in Great Barrington, MA, a restaurant in New York and a non-profit educational center on the Hudson, they represent the gold-standard.  Here the farmer and chef work hand in hand to create each menu based on what is being harvested and is fresh at the farm.  But there are many examples on a smaller scale of local Northeastern farms creating fantastic farm stands that serve as market, pie maker and jam confectioner.   Please post your favorite farm stand or farm product and share!
In this difficult economy, we are all having to make value choices about our resources at varying levels.   If possible, practice the power of the purse and buy those foods and products that represent the family farm, open land and sustainable stewardship.  When you don't have the budget to make these choices, consider the co-op.  For a few hundred dollars, you can buy six months worth of organic fruits and vegetables, or for no money, you can get a workshare at a co-op and bring your older children with you once a week.  Not only are you spending a beautiful weekend morning with your children and connecting them to where their food comes from, but you are walking away with free sustainable food that has helped keep a farm alive and the land open.  
If you have more of a budget and room to give, considering seeking out non-profit farms that feed the homeless, or organizations that pair farm surplus with urban hunger needs. If there is one in your area, please post it!
Miami....  Farmshare
Detroit... Earth Works Urban Farm
Seattle...Solid Ground
Boston... Gaining Ground

As Irving invites us - no matter what is posted, we make the rules.  

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