At the beginning of The Secret Life of Groceries, author Benjamin Lorr points out that the food we buy at the grocery store isn’t food until the moment we, well, buy it. Before that, it is a commodity, competing for room on the shelves, space in a truck, a worker’s time, and somewhere, a place in a field or factory floor. It competes, ultimately, for our money, and in these ways, it is no different than toothpaste or TVs or a time-share in Lake Geneva.
I think about that idea a lot, because at Turtle Creek Gardens, we’re surrounded by food. Row after row of green and red kale stands strong in the fields, each plant capable of giving us one or two leaves every few days. Hundreds of tomato plants bow to the noble weight of their fruit. Eggplants harvested in the morning rest purple-black in crates under a clean cloth, all through the hot afternoon. Orange carrots and beet-red beets try to shoulder out their neighbors. Watermelons loll against each other in their beds. The anise scent of fresh-cut fennel fills the walk-in cooler. And of course, zucchini and summer squash keep coming, and coming, and coming…
And it is food. It’s food when we plant it, it’s food when we cultivate or thin or weed or water. It’s always edible, if not a little gritty. We test the heat of a radish crop on the go, gauge the snap of a green bean with our teeth, and the sweetness of fresh kohlrabi one cool slice at a time, right there in the fields.
It’s even food when we till it under – food for the soil. It’s the least we can do, really – our soil is not dirt, an inert medium, so it needs nourishment and rest, after we’re done using it a season. This is because the soil is alive with the bacteria and fungi and critters large and small that feed the plants that feed us.
I’m writing now because in a few weeks, I’m leaving, after two seasons on this land, and I want to thank you for sharing in our bounty. It has been one of the greatest joys in my life to help grow your food.
Please, continue to support local organic farms like Turtle Creek Gardens, and personally connect with more farmers like Janet, farmers that think beyond their own fence-line. Do this for your health and the health of the land and the health of the workers who work the land, and do this for all the living creatures that will need this land when we’re gone. Our food is not just a commodity, mere weight on a scale, so many cubic feet on a pallet, or simply another item on a receipt eighteen inches long. It is special. It is essential. It is a gift.
Except maybe, when I think about it, that third or fourth planting of zucchini and summer squash. I mean, it just keeps coming, and coming, and coming…