In an alternate universe, an aspiring young author goes to his magazine editor for advice on a story he’s written. The editor says, “This won’t do. This is too preposterous, even for a science fiction magazine. Science fiction has to be, at the core, believable. No rational person would believe that there existed a society in which people did not know where their food came from. You’re asking us to believe in a society where people eat over-prepared, chemical-laden, pre-packaged food hauled over long distances – instead of locally grown, in-season food, fresh from the soil.”
This is the science fiction world we live in. This is the world I want to change. I approached organic and sustainable foods initially from a conservationist viewpoint. I saw what mono-cropped slash pines did to the woods around me. Creeks I used to fish in started to dry up every summer and become devoid of fish, because there was no border of hardwoods to hold in the rainfall and release it slowly. Sighting fox squirrels became rare. I saw the diversity in my local plant and animal species diminishing due to this mono-cropping. This led me to think about farming from an ecological standpoint, too. I looked around and saw large mono-cropped fields of corn, tobacco, cotton, soybeans, truck-farmed vegetables. These fields were kept as sterile as possible through the use of noxious chemicals and inundated with artificial fertilizers. These chemicals, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides kill species indiscriminately. The fertilizer leaches into the waterways and produces algae blooms that can kill aquatic life by taking up oxygen. All these things made the idea of small, diverse farms and gardens very appealing to me. Subsequent research has reinforced my initial attraction to this viewpoint.
My love of eating and cooking took me further down the path to organic, sustainable, and in-season produce. The fruits and vegetables that come in on ships, trains, trucks – picked green, gassed to ripen, and outside nature’s timetables – lack the flavor and vibrancy of fresh, local produce. The first-of-season tomatoes are a glory on the tongue, not just something red for a salad. Eating these local grown products connects us to people and the rhythms of the natural world. No green beans taste like the first few handfuls you pick in early spring. No sweetcorn is as sweet as those first ears that ripen. Look at the ingredient list on a local organic garden-produced meal: no dye, no BHA or BHT, no pesticide residue, no excess packaging, minimal fuel used to transport it.
Guess which universe I want to live in?