Something has been demanding my attention. It’s been one of those topics that has occurred over and over, seemingly out of the blue. Through random friends and acquaintances, freelance opportunities, volunteer requests, projects in my kids’ classes, and more, I have been roped into, immersed with and properly schooled on the topic of eating fresh, local, healthy produce. It’s in front of me, everywhere I turn.
By EMILY PARNELL
Special to The Star
It all started last fall when I was asked by a friend to join her in volunteer efforts for an Urban Grown Farms and Gardens Tour — organized by Cultivate KC. I joked about joining in – you know, with me being so urban. And such a farmer. (Yo yo homegirl, hee haw.) I love growing plants —flowers, herbs, some Malabar spinach (an awesome vine), but “farmer,” I am not. However, I was soon roped in by the enthusiasm exuded by all those involved.
I found myself in my sweet spot in my volunteer work —the point where I get to write about and research topics that intrigue me. Things that matter. I traveled to a couple of different farms where women grow produce to share. To sell. To feed our community. I wandered through an immense greenhouse full of plants to be sold and herbs to be harvested. I inhaled their aroma and tasted their freshness. Just seeing it — just being there —was all it took to inspire me.
It’s a big topic these days. A movement. A revolution, even. Our culture is becoming more and more thoughtful about what we eat. New fangled diets focus less on calorie counting and more on the health impact on our bodies. We worry about the cumulative effect of foods we do — or do not — eat. What condition or disease will it cause (or prevent), and of course, how much junk will it add to our trunk?
But we’re thinking deeper than that, now. Where did our food come from? What was sprayed on it? How much energy was expended to get it from the ground (or test tube) into our pie hole? And even complicated topics like where the very seeds originated – and did scientists monkey around with their DNA to create some sort of monster food? A three-legged chicken? Some sort of mutant that grows vigorously and aggressively and kills six-legged predators that munch on it? And how, exactly, does that affect us two-legged predators, much higher in the food chain?
Whew — if you’re an over-thinker, you can have a heyday with this one! But don’t worry, if you prefer to under-think your food (like I do) there are simpler solutions. Visit the farmers markets. Put more whole, locally produced foods on your table. Support our restaurants that pledge to buy local —and thank them for doing so. There’s a gold mine of great, locally produced food available (produce, dairy and meat) and those who produce it are just itching to share their knowledge — and best of all, their yummy food with you. And thank goodness it’s so readily accessible. My kids have come home with all this information. Their schools are dedicating lots of wonderful time and effort into producing a healthy next-generation. We parents need to be up to speed and keep the goodness rolling at home!
I can’t wait to take my family on the upcoming tour. I’m not sure I’m destined to till up my entire front yard and devote it to veggies, but I’d like to see, with my kids, how it’s possible. To remember that the food in the grocery store didn’t materialize in boxes. (Want to go? Check out www.cultivatekc.org.)
Many of us have become so far removed from the production of our food that it’s a re-education process. But take the time. It’s good food for body and soul.