Is locally grown a synonym for homegrown produce? Is it seeking out the healthiest foodstuffs extant? Or is it recognizing the fact that a cultural change is about: people increasingly wanting food that feels natural, simple and untainted by consumerism.
It’s been said that there is a prevailing sense that the American dream has turned out to be a big, fat toxin laden environment destroying nightmare.
Cody Hopkins, a young farmer who tends the tidy Falling Sky farm some miles north of Conway is generally thought of as a prime mover in the Conway Locally Grown concept. And on that assumption he brings his expertise to play in helping local farmers succeed in the natural world.
Another spokesperson for Conway Locally Grown, Gabe Levin, speaks from his station as former manager of the organization.
When we consider the term “health,” we immediately think of the physical condition of self, and the desire to maintain or improve our physical condition is often what moves us to spend the extra time, effort and money to acquire the highest standard of nourishment we possibly can. However, our relationship with our food - what we eat, who produced it, how it is produced - affects far more than just our individual health because our relationship with food connects us in varying levels of tangibility to the broader community of soil, plants, animals and other people.
At this point, two experts in the field, both esteemed authors, weigh in on the subject.
Wendell Berry says: “I believe that the community — in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures — is the smallest unit of health and to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.”
“The whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal and man is one great subject — “Sir Albert Howard
Conway Locally Grown’s Gabe Levin adds, “Too often we think of food supply in terms of taste and nutrition, a mere fuel for the body that comes in many flavors, but it is so much more. An organic heirloom tomato is not just a nutritious fruit, it is the product of millennia of human interactions with the natural world.”
The countless human efforts that make our food possible largely define our collective relationship with the natural world and the health of our communities. Sadly, most human relationships with the natural world could be labeled as abusive, and most communities could be considered unhealthy as a whole.”
Looking at food and health from the perspectives of agrarian philosophers mentioned above, assumes that our health as individuals is inescapably linked to the health of our food system and the natural world that sustains it.
And that is why, Levin maintains, in the interest of true, community-wide health, local food organizations like Conway Locally Grown are a good idea.
In its most recent communiqué with Conway Locally Grown patrons, those intrepid farmers who provide their interpretation of “good food” relate a story of warfare with pests that intrude on the growing process. In this case, blister beetles.
“They had eaten all the leaves of one pepper plant and were going crazy on several others,” local Cedar Rock Ridge farmers revealed.”
They could have gotten rid of the pests in ten minutes or so, if they had taken the advice of well-meaning friends who recommended an application of Seven Dust.
“My plants produce food for people, so there is no way I will use harmful chemicals on something we eat,” Cedar Rock Ridge farmer Steve Lunk said.
So, in the hot son, a war on hundreds of scurrying blister beetles ensued. The casualties were dropped into a plastic cup filled with water and gasoline. It apparently was a hard-won victory - the defoliated pepper plants are growing new leaves and making a full recovery.
It is the conviction that growing organically takes a little more work and time, but the results are worthwhile.
So if the idea of community-wide farming is appealing, and participating in it begs your interest, find Conway Locally Grown on line; make your food selections from a plethora of fruits, veggies and meats offered and pick up your purchases on Friday at St. Peter’s Episcopal, 925 Mitchell, beginning at 4 p.m.