Desperation: a manifesto.

July 16, 2011

Grab an adult beverage it’s a long one!

I cried all the way home from watering the garden this morning. Not because there is any sort of huge problem with the garden today. It’s doing fine considering the heat. But because I understand what drives people to do things that are not in their best interests in the long run. And that makes me sad.

As many of you know I have been a different person since I decided to plant this garden and spread my thoughts on chemicals, food security, carbon foot print of food, etc…it’s a complicated mess our food system! The most easily understood issue Monsanto’s herbicide Round-up and its harmful effects to people, the earth, it’s control over farmers and our economy… Even still, most people look at me like I’m a crazy person when I start talking about Monsanto and its hold on farmers, which directly translates to control over what most average American consumers can buy to feed their families. Since watching the documentary The Future of Food, I’ve been changed, scared, motivated, desperate, enthusiastic, and in a completely coincidental turn of events – economically ‘challenged’. It’s those economic issues that bring the word desperation to the surface today.

I stood over my incredibly healthy looking but slow growing and non productive plants today watering and thinking about how incredibly lucky I am to be able to water those plants. The City of Norman has just instituted water restrictions and we are in the midst of a drought of epic proportions complicated by an a extremely hot summer so far. And I realized how totally economically wasteful this garden is. I’m watering with city treated water – It’s my only option. We have spent HUNDREDS of dollars on plants, compost, gasoline for tilling and driving to the garden, seeds, tools, and hoses…just off the top of my head. We have spent hundreds of hours on getting things ready to plant, watering by hand, picking grass out of the garden (to no avail), and just worrying about how it’s all going to end up. I want every single drop of water and every single blossom to produce something to eat (well, technically, every OTHER blossom…but you know what I mean!) I want every minute spent out in this heat to work towards a harvest that feeds my children and your children and the people who are fed by the charities that Vis Solis has decided to support. I resent those plants that are taking my time and that expensive water and not making food!!!

It was at the very moment I realized my resentment that I actually considered putting Miracle Gro (a Scott’s product that is in part owned by Monsanto) on the garden. Desperation! I wanted to force them to produce when nature was telling them it wasn’t a good time to. I wanted my own Butternut squash! And it totally hit me that that is how every farmer has felt at one time or another. They just want those plants to grow to feed their families, either directly by putting their crop on their dinner table or by harvesting and selling their crop to earn money to afford to buy food for their family. Watching those plants grow with no visible purpose is frustrating as all get out! When someone tells you that you can increase your yield despite nature it’s very reassuring, incredibly intoxicating, and desperately hard to resist. Damn you Monsanto…

 In my life I have had the luxury of not ever having to worry about food on the table. My children have always known this luxury as well. As a mother I cannot imagine the pain of wondering where my child’s next meal or the meal after that or even next week’s meals will come from. This past year, however, has not been so luxurious. I have lost over 75% of my income through budget cuts and other income reductions. Part of my motivation to work this garden was to feel secure in the knowledge that my family could eat fresh foods this summer when my income would be at its very lowest for the year. In all reality, these few veggies are costing me way more than I would have spent at the most expensive market in town! I get to pick and choose what expenses get covered and food is not where I sacrifice for my family…that is most certainly a luxury that not all families have. The garden has not sacrificed either…not sure how I feel about that realization right now. But I do still feel very lucky.

I think about the mothers who came to Oklahoma as pioneers without the luxury of markets or water hoses that always turn on. How did they feel the day they looked at a non productive vegetable plant? Did they sacrifice their drinking water for watering the gardens and animals? How did they feel the day they had to tell their children they had nothing to eat because of the drought? How on earth did they cope with that fear? Were they as desperate feeling as me? Why did they stay here??? I have no answers for these questions…I just cry even more thinking about it.

So, desperatly and with much frustration, I will not – and ONLY because I have the luxury to do so – not put artificial chemicals on the garden to try to force it to produce. I have a duty to my children and your children to not make things worse…the long run is what this garden is all about. I will not let the big chemical companies lull me into using their products because I feel desperate. But I will surely and compasionately understand the small farmer who does make that choice. I cannot blame them one bit for wanting the security it provides them. I cannot even imagine being faced with the choice of my children going hungry this year or possibly having health issues later in their lives. To me that sounds like a no-brainer…feeding my children would always come first! I will however keep telling others that those chemicals will eventually be the downfall of our food system and the overall health of the people who eat from it. And I will count my blessings that I have the luxury to make this choice.

For those of you that have the luxury of financial security and can use your consumer dollars to speak. Please do so…buy local, buy only organic, stop supporting Monsanto in any way you can. And let others know. And please, if you haven’t before now, watch The Future of Food. Do what you can to help keep farmers from having to make these terribly difficult choices.

 Now…for regular garden news!

The failure of my potato plants and the 500 bean seeds that never grew has forced me to look at the harvestable veggies in a new way as well. I look at the whole plant to see what can be eaten…last week I ate radish greens in my salad and put sliced up radishes in my stir fry…because they are the only plant that is producing like crazy in the garden. Why waste one bit of them? BTW…radish leaves sliced up very thin and added to a salad are delicious – very much like arugula taste wise and add a nice heft as well! And the spiciness of a radish in a stir fry adds a very nice depth to the flavors too.

Tomorrow at the garden we will have several eggplants, a very small container of yellow pear tomatoes, a couple of Serrano peppers, a cucumber that enjoyed the two cloudy days and is now the size of my forearm, and tons of herbs and radishes available for purchase. And our second week of egg delivery!!

 See you there from 9-12.