Outside it is dusk; the sun is going down, the chickens are finding their way into their coop, I have rhubarb cooking on the stove, and here I am in front of the computer, writing down thoughts of the day, or maybe of the season or of the world. As I was doing my nightly Google news reading, I came across this article. Modern tomatoes – worse than factory raised chicken and CAFO raised beef and pork. Human slavery, a condiment on the all American California burger and BLT sandwich. Who cares if it is January or February, give me my ripe tomatoes, and give them to me with extra mayo.
It is too easy to not pay attention to the fact that the tomatoes on that sandwich are harvested by hand; hands that are taken advantage of, hands that are poisoned, hands that are starved and are cold with pain, and hands that are over worked and underpaid. It is these hands that make our home gardens so important and relevant to our times. It is these hands that make Urban Homesteading/Farming a lifestyle. It is these hands that we need to help. We need to lighten their load by making ours a little bit heavier. By growing our own produce, even if it is only one tomato plant out on the deck, we take a little pressure off these hard working people. By adjusting and changing our lifestyles and diets, we can start to eat more foods in season that are grown in closer proximity to where we live. Maybe those tomatoes on your sandwich aren’t so important; you know what, maybe that fast food sandwich isn’t so important either! Maybe we need to rethink our whole setup!
It is only in the last 60 or 70 years that Americans started to step away from the production of their own food. Many things came out of both WWI and WWII, one being the advent of modern industrial agriculture. Synthetic petroleum based fertilizers, refrigeration, food preservatives, an ever SUB/urbanizing population, and the American idea of instant gratification. There was no longer a need to stay on the farm, or to keep a backyard garden going. The cities are where the new modern jobs were, lawns were a sign that said, “Yeah, I made it into the big time!” Along with the suburbs came the advent of the fast food joint. Burgers, fried chicken, pizza, and tacos could now all be purchased from the comfort of your car on your way back home from work. Food no longer came from the farm or from the garden, or even from the local corner market, but instead from the big box grocery store or the fast food joint. And this is where we are now. Food shipped for thousands of miles and out of season to fulfill our American desire for instant gratification. Asparagus and pears from Argentina, tomatoes from Florida – all just a quick car ride away.
In response to all this modern, high speed consumption are many positive steps we as individuals and communities can take to lighten the load of migrant farm workers and the planet alike. Be aware of what you eat – check ingredients, pay attention to where it is coming from, is it in season? Move towards a more local diet – join a coop, shop at an all growers farmer’s market, support local restraunts and bakeries, and do more cooking for yourself at home. And lastly get your hands dirty – plant a garden if you have the room, if not find a community garden to join. Get a few backyard chickens (they are great entertainment, plus you will get eggs!), start a compost pile or build some rain barrels. It is those of us who have a privileged lifestyle that will have to make the most changes in the near future. Peak Oil is a reality and we can either evolve to the circumstances of the near future, or that future will force changes upon us. Either way big changes are coming, it is just a matter of if we are ready for them or not. Go out and plant some tomatoes, enjoy the time in garden, and know that you can help lighten the load of someone who can use a little bit of help. Cheers!