Thursday, May 22, 2008

KETTLE'S ON: FEEDING THE HUNGRY STRANGER

(Downed 250-year-old live oak tree, Texas State Capitol Grounds, Austin)

While the rest of the country is having unseasonably cool weather, here in Texas we're breaking daily heat records (101 in Austin yesterday). This is after a week of horrific storms that smashed windows in the dome of the capitol building here, tore up trees all over this tree-filled city, and left 39,000 Austinites without power for a few days. It isn't enough to say "global warning" with a wry grin and turn up the AC (if you have AC). The real impact the shift in weather patterns is having, will increasingly continue to have, is on farmers. Those who provide food for the rest of us, and, especially, those billions around the globe who subsist solely from what they can grow. Interrupt that cycle, and they starve to death.

It isn't going to be enough for us to pay more at the store for our food, either, although that is a change which has been long overdue. The increased costs are not necessarily going to organic or family farms, for one thing. For another, U.S. governmental subsidies are still keeping the cost of certain Big Ag crops artificially low and destroying a "free market" internationally. Removing those subsidies will, we think, restore some international equilibrium, remove corporate interest in certain crops at the expense of others who are far healthier for us (junk food depends on the subsidized crops), and with the return of real competition, increase crop diversity and rescue of strains headed for market extinction but whose use to us could be potentially life-saving.

Beyond that, we need to return to our foreign policy the simple comprehension that starvation or living on the edge is what creates most war and violence. Especially violence against women and children. If you call yourself a feminist, you must actively support programs which will remove women and children from the categories of "commodity" or "expendable" in times of scarce resources. In terms of numbers affected, it's far more important than other so-called gender issues.

So, support your local non-corporate food production and distribution networks, but also keep pressure on your elected officials to help us feed the world. Our national image has been covered with feces by the actions of the current government. We have a shot at cleaning it off and redeeming ourselves (the real path to ending terrorism).


And, to give you a farmer's perspective, here's an excerpt from this week's newsletter from Boggy Creek's, Austin's beloved urban organic farm which sits in a working class, people of color neighborhood, providing enduring sustenance to our community in multiple ways. Read the words of farm owner Carol Ann Sayle and marvel at her perspective.

In general, five or six trees down is nothing, considering that damage to our crops from the one-minute golf-ball-size hail storm was minimal. I had awakened, like many citizens, at just past midnight to the pow-pow-pow sounds of big hail, and, flashlight in hand (for there was no power), I ran to the back door, opened it, then pressed it closed against the 65 mph winds, and counted the seconds in my mind as the hail pummeled the back yard. One minute, and one minute only. And I could hear myself think.

One minute. The crops would survive that. It was no tornado. If it was, the sound of it would have been deafening. I know. I remember 11.15.2001 -- a sound so huge that it was hard to hear the prayers in my head. A wind more than fifty percent greater than this one. An F-1 tornado. (A sprained ankle.)

This night, it was all ok. We were blessed.

The largest fig tree, in the front orchard (a sudden hole in a shoe's sole) was not ok. The next day, I ran my hand over one of its many large limbs, mourning it, thanking it for its gifts over the years. The trunk, gigantic by any fig tree standards, lay splayed open, severed in half, cut asunder to the ground. A thousand little figs still looked perky on the branches that fanned out around the tree like a prostrate Garden of Eden, but they would be limp by the time we cut up the tree and hauled the tragic bounty to the curb.

David brought his chain saw and even after cutting up a couple of other trees, we still had the energy to take care of this one, for, almost always, a Texas storm is followed the next day by weather that makes you glad to be alive. A day so bright, so crystal clear, that the devastation looks almost abnormal. How could it have been?

Farmers are not exempt from feeling sorry for themselves. We are human. It's the nature of humanity. We gripe, we moan, we count off failed crops. And then we realize, tomorrow will be beautiful and worth starting over, trying it again, living for the next season, the next crop. What we went through wasn't so bad after all.

Considering dire conditions. Considering real tragedy....


(First of the green beans and cucumbers at Boggy Creek)

Note: This week Boggy Creek's market tables will offer: Just-dug New Red and White Potatoes; Cucumbers (2 great-tasting varieties); Green Beans; Summer Squash (7 varieties! -- Costata Romanesco Zucchini, Elite Zucchini, Raven Zucchini, Flying Saucer, SunRay Yellow, Zephyr, & Sunburst Scallop); Fresh Beets; Table Gold Acorn Squash; Delicata Squash; Spring Onions (white); Bulk Red Onions; Heirloom Garlic; Salads (Baby Lettuces, Baby Chards for braising or salad, Chicory Salad, Baby Arugula); Dandelion Greens; Culinary Herbs & Chives; Brussels Greens; Bunch Arugula; French Sorrel; and Sun Flower and Zinnia Bouquets... Tomatoes: 10 days or sooner! (A few reds are trickling in now....) Early June for Sweet Corn!

Local Dairies' (Pure Luck
, Wateroak and Thunderheart Bison, Loncito's Lamb); Fresh Eggs (BCF Hen House Eggs & Louis Young's free-range eggs); Local Miles of Chocolate; Aunt Penny's organic cotton t-shirts and tote bags, small organic cotton produce bags, plus the farm books (Eating in Season: Recipes from BCF and Stories from the Hen House).

(Aunt Penny out for a spring stroll among the dianthus at Boggy Creek) Farms)

2 comments:

letsdance said...

What an extraordinary bounty so early in the season. Our tulips and daffedils have just finished here in Michigan.

Thank you for another informative post, Maggie.

Renee said...

If food costs continue to rise I think that this will be the first generation since the WWII generation to actively produce in the home. This will be a good thing for the environment I believe. It may even cause people to think about the degree to which they waste things, food and commodities. Purposeful redundancy that is built into most consumer products today is wasteful.