Food. It is not just what is for dinner. Food is sustenance, support for life and for many food is a way of life. While those of us who work in agriculture hope to remind, or inform, people that food does not come from a grocery store, perhaps, it is time to take a step back and rephrase the statement.
Food does indeed come from a grocery store for most of the population. Few of us have the time, space or ability to plant and grow a garden. Even fewer of us work directly growing food on a scale big enough stock a farm stand, supply a packing shed or actually be in the business of growing food for a living.
The real message we all need to understand is that while food does come from a grocery store, it does not grow pre-packaged, portion controlled and shelf ready! Food grows on plants, trees, vines and in pastures. Today, somewhere in the Central Valley, nuts are being shaken off the trees by a mechanical shaker and a crew is operating a harvesting machine to pick the tomatoes to make pasta sauce and ketchup. There is a great deal of labor, technology and science that gets that food from seed to supermarket.
So how do we make the links from seed to tomato to pizza sauce or alfalfa to cow to ice cream? When my boys were little the link was made by a field trip to the dairy and an up close visit with a cow. Today, field trips and cattle conversations have gone the way of a phone with a cord. Kids don't have the regular opportunities to see, touch, hear and smell the items that become their food.
As parents, teachers and humans it is our job to bring this experience to our future leaders and voters. The experience may be as high tech as a video on the web showing a dairy carousel milking parlor (an amusement park ride for happy cows!) or as low tech as a school garden. However, we share and explain the origin of food we should all make a commitment to bring someone to enlightenment
So here is the call to action. Take someone you know to a farm stand or farmers market this weekend. Buy some fresh fruit and vegetables, break open the old fashioned cookbook with the paper pages you can turn and make something! It can be as simple as a fruit salad and as complex as a fruit pie. When you go to the market, ask how they grow what you are buying. How long have they grown this? What unique challenges have they had this season? Most importantly, what is their favorite recipe...you might find a new family favorite.
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