Opinion

Growing food could be salvation

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This generation could be the one that sees the end of the world – Ronald Reagan

 

Lots of folks think ‘Dutch’ just got the decade wrong.

Doomsday Preppers, a series on Geographic Channel, follows men stocking bunkers for the day law and order crumbles.

In The Walking Dead, zombies devour whole families.

One is tempted to keep high-powered rifles to dissuade the guy next door who didn’t put up enough canned vegetables, water and spam. It takes a good man with a gun to stop a bad man with a gun.

People will resort to violence to eat. But the ravenous TV zombies aren’t really crazed cannibals, but a metaphor we can learn from. They’re the growing traumatized among us searching for purpose and meaning in society, the only place they can find it.

Ironically, growing food could be salvation – not for all, maybe – but for many of them.

Humans have a basic need to eat food – the real stuff - and they’re lifted emotionally by planting seeds and harvesting the results for the dinner table.

Food feeds our souls, and losing the connection creates psychological problems.

Two recent documentaries illustrate this.

Last Call at the Oasis examines the water crisis in California’s Central Valley, the source of 25 per cent of America’s food, and a lot of ours. Unrestrained water use has forced many farmers to abandon a lifestyle that spans generations. One man in this film is near tears as he mulches a 23-year-old almond grove he can’t get enough water for.

Scientists say climate change, added to disappearing aquifers and dropping reservoirs, “spells a train wreck.”

It also means more folks with wounded spirits.

In Australia, where droughts persist for decades, the shortage of water has extracted a great psychological toll on lives revolving around food production. Dairy farmer Sandra Hopkins sold her cows before they died.

“They’re my babies,” she says, as husband, John, fights back tears.

The suicide rate among farmers there is four per day.

But the role water plays in lives is another story.

This one is about our connection to food and what we should be doing to strengthen that bond.

That’s the goal of the Local Good Food Movement. Last week, Cinema Politica screened Edible City: Grow the Revolution.

It outlines what the Good Food initiative is trying to facilitate in cities like San Francisco.

The film looks at neighborhoods where residents with limited incomes may travel 40 minutes – by bus usually – to the nearest supermarkets to find any fresh vegetables, but usually buy canned and processed foods from the nearby corner store. Good Food volunteers reconnect these folks to foods that nourish  bodies and lift spirits simultaneously. In dozens of neighborhoods they’ve found devoted organic food growers ready to help others live healthier lives.

Residents have embraced them enthusiastically. Many folks there had never seen a vegetable garden, and had little idea about the vitamins and minerals in a carrot.

The program engaged them in planting, weeding, watering and harvesting. In some cases, co-ops were formed. Members sell what they grow and share the profits. Local gardens have become classrooms where people teach others what they’ve learned. Kids with behavioral issues and other learning challenges have come back into the educational system after digging in the dirt to plant seeds.

Kids always planted bean seeds in my classrooms for all those reasons. They beamed when seedlings pushed through the soil and stretched skyward. They measured the weekly growth of plants with excitement. When the time came, they put bean sprouts in salads they prepared, and proudly served them to classmates who marveled at how good they tasted. Children remind us of our innate connection to food, and the good feeling derived from sharing a meal we contributed to.

There are many folks in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows who know all this and structure their lives around these truths. Some actively promote community garden plots. There are 100 boxes in Pitt Meadows, but only 50 in Maple Ridge. There could be more if politicians and the community put their heads together.

The more we connect with food locally, the healthier our community will be.

We’ve made a good start here. We’ve a robust farmer’s market, a growing group of young people who are returning to the land to grow food, and a new co-op whose members will share life skills and profits from sales.

Reagan’s prediction has less to offer than words from Albert Einstein. “The world is a dangerous place,” he said, “not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

• Charles, (Chuck) Ellman, 84, a retired M.R. educator, died recently. He encouraged everyone to follow his passion, and do what he could to improve society. Stories of Chuck  – always a teacher – doing that, went around the Ceed Centre table a few weeks ago. Few earn such a legacy.

 

Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.

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