I haven’t blogged much about my garden lately. For my first time gardening, things have been going much better than anticipate: a very pleasant surprise! While I am not yielding enough to stop buying vegetables from the grocery store, it has exceeded many of my expectations. Last week I actually ran a tomato surplus and had to give away, literally, the fruits of my labor.
For a while I actually contemplated how to handle the extra produce? Should I just eat them? Make some pasta sauce and then freeze them? I was hell-bent on ensuring the proper use of my perfectly scarlet tomatoes (honestly, redder than a crayon. Those orangey things at the supermarket are a different food altogether, if you ask me). I needed to make sure they were going to be used to their fullest potential. So I called up a dear friend of mine and offered to drop off the surplus tomatoes, as well as some fresh and wonderfully fragrant basil leaves.
I gently wrapped the day’s harvest in a brown paper bag, labeled it carefully so that my friend wouldn’t leave them in his car to rot by mistake. Even after I saw him place them carefully on his passenger seat and drive away I couldn’t help but worry that my bright red babies would be neglected and bruised or, worst yet, thrown away!
This got me thinking…if I was worried about a few tiny tomatoes and a handful of basil leaves that I grew for fun getting wasted, how did real farmers feel about food waste in America? It’s quite horrible really…we are an increasingly overweight society that is throwing away food, while people all over the world (and in our own country, too) are starving. I did a little digging…and here is what I found.
40% of all food produced in the United States is wasted (end up in landfills)
80% of all water used in the United States is used to produce food
68% of pantries, 42% of soup kitchens, and 15% of emergency shelters rely solely on volunteers and have no paid staff
(statistics courtesy of http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-studies/hunger-study-2010/key-findings.aspx)
It’s appalling, disturbing, and tragic. I understand that a lot of people don’t believe in global warming and do not see the point in conversation. But this can only be because they view the environment as separate from them.
To truly follow the way of “The General Sweetness” as Thoreau intended, we cannot see ourselves as being so disconnected from our environment, both the natural and social one. This level of waste is certainly bad for the ecological world, but is it not perhaps worse that this level of waste is hurting people? Isn’t it worth it to “go green” and live a bit more conscientiously for the sake of our fellow humans, some of whom have less food on their table then we have in our garbage cans?
I was not intending on being such an advocate when I started gardening. I merely wanted to keep my family a bit healthier and more self-sufficient. But I am slowly seeing how these actions go beyond my own pantry. To grow your food, even a small part of it, is to learn compassion and actively prevent waste. It is to understand where our sustenance and nourishment comes from, and to consciously protect it and encourage others to do the same. And this doesn’t just apply to organic locally grown produce that so many environmentalist advocate for: No matter where the food comes from, or how unhealthy it is, it must not be wasted.
If you are interested in learning more about food waste, these two articles are a good place to start. Also the above link for Feeding America has a lot of information and resources that I found very moving and inspiring.