Here in the U.S., we see seriously take food for granted. It is ever-available, always looking us straight in the face (and the mouth, and the stomach) from the road-side billboards, TV commercials, the expansive shelves of the supermarket, and just about everywhere else. As a society we simply do not appreciate our food. Many of us are locked in a great irony with food. It is so easy to obtain just by driving to the local supermarket or shoving some quarters into a vending machine, that the idea of “food” and “effort” in the same sentence can often seem trivial. It’s as if all our technological advancements and industrial accomplishments have made food available in some new chemical process (not entirely false).
The notion of “agriculture” brings up romantic images of ancient civilizations and Little House on the Prairie, but is never conceived of as something happening now that is relevant, never mind essential to our lives. We view the farm as a long-lost relative, that we idealize and recall as a great part of our past, but fail to see as present and productive. There is an immense disconnect between our increasing reliance of industrial food systems and our decreased understanding of where this food comes from. Closing this gap has enormous benefits, not only to our physical health, but also our psychological and cultural health as well.
Imagine briefly that you are a new homeowner; you have just signed all your paperwork and taken your first step over the threshold of your new house. Chances are this is the culmination of much planning and preparation. You saved money for years, you researched which neighborhoods were best for you, you took great care to ensure that your credit was strong, etc. You took time picking out the furnishings, matching the throw pillows with the art work and buying the best security system on the market. You probably used a real estate agent to ensure getting a great price, a safe neighborhood, and beautiful home. Excitement and relief are flooding your veins and you still can hardly believe that YOU own your own home. You just finished moving in the last of your belongings and head to the market to fill the pantry. You, like most shoppers, load up on bottles of wine, the biggest brightest produce on the shelf, and all the “bare essentials” you’ll need to get started cooking in your new kitchen.
Regardless of the fact that you’ve spent months researching your new house, and years saving up for it, it took you all of an hour to fill your cupboards with mystery. You bought that expensive security system to protect your belongings, but you never once thought to consider where those lovely sirloin tips came from, or how it was that all your new apples are perfectly red and round. While your home is in the perfect location and perfectly safe, your body is not.
We spend so much time researching our clothes, our jobs, our neighborhoods, but no time at all considering that which nourishes our bodies. No matter how many bedrooms our house has, or how expensive our shoes are, or how many safety features our shiny new car has, food holds the ultimate trump card over our well-being.
Which brings me back to my original question…why grow your own food? Imagine again the satisfaction of taking that first step in your new house. Now imagine having that feeling every time you bite into a juicy tomato, knowing that the sweetness comes both its freshness but also from the love of our own hands. The satisfaction of at least partial self-sufficiency is breathtaking. By no means am I arguing that we should all abandon society and live entirely off the land, surviving in the cold harsh winter off of leftover potatoes from last year’s harvest. Once we experience what it takes for our food to reach our lips, we will be more mindful of what we choose to open our lips for. This will domino into other parts of our lives, and awaken us to the bounty of nature around us as well as the horrors of how much of our “food” is actually produced.
Yes, it will take work. No, it won’t always be easy, but neither is buying that dream house.