‘American Way of Eating,’ ‘Abundance’ offer food for thought

March 9, 2012

Deceptive weather a gamble on growing organic food

This freakishly warm weather is prompting people to want to plant in the garden, but I would advise caution.
Historically, here, even avid gardeners don’t plant until Good Friday, which this year is April 6.
Normally, in central Mississippi, we often have a cold spell in April, and sometimes even heavy frost the week after Easter.
Lots of gardeners wait much later, until the first of May, so that the plants are assured of good growing in warm soils. However, as organic growers, we usually plant earlier rather than later so that we are toward the end of our growing season when bugs are at their height.
Bottom line: Now is a good time to “start” plants indoors, or your carport, or outside on a table or, as mentioned last week, in a wheelbarrow – so that you can pull plants indoors if cold weather comes.
But if you want to plant in the soil now, recognize that it’s a gamble. Unless the plants are cold weather plants, such as lettuces, kale, cabbages, chard, etc., cold soils and adverse weather can stunt plants or develop disease so they don’t produce well.
Now is a good time to read good books about food, farming and the like, and I’ve got a couple to recommend.

First is The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan (Scribner, 2010, $16).
McMillan, a journalist, went “undercover,” to so speak, to live off the wages and live the lifestyle of a farm worker, a grocery clerk and a restaurant server. Her report is mesmerizing, highly readable, at times heartwarming, sometimes horrifying, and often perplexing, leading to the question: Who came up with this system and isn’t there a better way?
American Way of Eating is a powerful piece of journalism about the behind-the-scenes reality of our food system.

Abundance, welcome! People concerned about the environment and the future of humanity are pounded by negative messages, but as Bryan Welch says in his book Beautiful and Abundant: Building the World We Want (B&A Books, 2010) that may
work against finding solutions.
“Imagining a positive vision of the future strikes the alarmed mind as a trivial distraction,” he observers.
A Kansas rancher and publisher of Mother Earth News, Welch makes an analogy with the modern world as a motorcycle rider midway in an unexpected, ever-tightening curve. The natural inclination is to slow down, conserve, cut
back, but therein lies disaster.
“Motorcyclists, mountain bikers, skiers and steeplechasers all learn the same lesson: When you are moving forward with a lot of momentum you have to focus beyond the short term challenges. You need to be thinking ahead. You need to picture yourself past the coming obstacles. You have to visualize the successful outcome. Then your reflexes can take care of the short term.”
Is it possible for someone concerned about the future of the planet to have a positive outlook?
Welch doesn’t pull any punches. He readily admits the seemingly insurmountable problems facing humankind – resource depletion, population expansion, species loss, deforestation, global warming, economic malaise.
But he turns these issues on their head, saying that the way past them is to take a new perspective. He poses Quaker-style “queries” to lead the reader. He believes “if we ask the rights questions, they could guide us down a new path.”
To wit:
•Is it beautiful? (to engage human imagination);
•Does it create abundance? (to entice innovation);
•Is it fair? (so no one is marginalized, all can share);
•Is it contagious? (so it can “go viral” or create a “tipping point” for change).
I won’t give away any more of the book. I will say that it’s exceedingly rare to find someone with such business acumen and belief in the free enterprise system to be posing questions and seeking answers about the future of humankind in such a thoughtful, egalitarian way.
Perhaps that’s why this book out of the nation’s breadbasket by a prairie sheep-and-goat farmer/writer/publisher hasn’t vaulted to the top of environmental debate (it’s too sane!).
It’s not a book to skim, as the real cream rises in your own thoughts mulling it over.
Maybe I’m biased, but I believe the great heart, soul and conscience of America resides in rural areas. Too few books reflect that. This is one of them.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s