by Suzan Hill
My mother was a “foodie” decades before the word was invented. I grew up with an International Cooking Club gathering once a month in our home. I have memories of the smell of curries and Italian sauces simmering on our stove, of Greek menus and Moroccan and Brazilian and North African flavors that were exotic for the early 60’s. My mother grew her own herbs and made chutneys and hot pepper jellies in the 70’s. One year she and my father wrote a family cookbook which she printed and bound herself. Food was a shared family adventure. As adults, my sister and I both continued the tradition, branching out to other cuisines as globalization made more and more recipes and ingredients available.
When I moved to Oregon I started growing vegetables organically, inspired by the Findhorn books and plant spirits. I was lucky enough to be part of the good work of establishing a large permaculture garden and orchard.
Today, as a lover of Earth and her creatures, my interest has honed in on our American food system. As a society we have become separate from our basic relationship with Earth – that she feeds, sustains and heals us. This is the fundamental life-creating cycle that every species participates in, but from which most of us humans are cut off. We can trace this disconnect directly to the industrialization of agriculture and our system of food distribution, which are massively destructive of our soil, our air, and our water in addition to damaging our health. More at heart here is that it reinforces a daily disconnect from Earth as the source of our sustenance and lives.
It isn’t my purpose here to detail the dysfunction of our food growing and distribution practices, the damage to the planet, impoverishment of people, and detrimental effects on our health. If you want to explore those issues, I’ve included three great resources at the end. What I want to share here is how easily we can reverse disconnection and reestablish our fundamental link to the planet through our food.
Three easy things you can do to reconnect with Earth as your source of sustenance:
- I love growing a garden but it was a long while before I realized why it was so satisfying to me. I discovered that deep in the memories of our DNA we carry the imprint of gathering and growing our food. For tens of thousands of years our ancestors hunted and gathered and shared food. About 10,000 years ago we learned to cultivate crops and domesticate animals, which allowed us to establish villages instead of following our food around from season to season. Growing even one food plant awakens that ancient knowing and relationship with our environment. There is a basic reciprocity between our labor in growing and gathering food and the fundamental trust that Earth provides for us – in truth, she is the only thing that does. Our inner, ancestral, wise self feels the reconnection, and our bodies, hearts and spirits are more deeply nourished.
So even if you live in an urban apartment, see what happens if you grow just one tomato plant or a pot of basil. Start with an organically grown seedling, and transplant it lovingly. Tomatoes love to have part of their stem buried at time of transplant. Gently lay the stem horizontally in the pot for 4-8 inches depending on the pot size, and cover with a good organic potting soil, then pat with gratitude. That stem will spout rootlets that transfer the life giving elements of the soil into the plant, flowers, and fruit onto your tongue and into your body as pure nourishment – Earth to your very cells.
- These days there is a saying that local is the new organic. Over the years I have come to understand that each bioregion has its own holistic system of interdependent life – it's own life force dialect. Our best health comes through the plant foods and medicines that share our place on the planet. So from May to November our household relies on Farmer’s markets for our produce, honey, fish, and meat. Local foods hold the intelligence of the soil, air, and water of the bioregion in which we live and provide the nutrients needed from season to season – bountifully assuring us a deeper physiological (and spiritual) connection to our place on the planet.
Not only is local food more nourishing for you than food which is transported for thousands of miles from another ecosystem, but it’s far friendlier to the planet. Local farmers are the best alternative to industrial agriculture which is moving rapidly to GMO crops, using literally tons of pesticides and herbicides each year which in turn threatens pollinators and plant diversity. Our dominant food system is depleting the available soil across the globe, then generates a huge carbon imprint as meat and vegetables are processed and transported, first to distribution centers and then to your local store. In Portland, we have an abundance of farmer’s markets to explore. Here’s the link to explore their times, locations, and specialties: http://www.portlandfarmersmarket.org/.
- In my backyard, there are five raised beds where I grow most of our greens and tomatoes and herbs. I’m still learning how to grow enough to put by for the winter and how to save seed for the following year. Most of us are not able to grow all of our own food at this time, but we can rejoin the human practice of cooperatively feeding the community, rather than only feeding one household. Sustenance was always a collective endeavor until the last 125 years. Growing food together and harvesting together not only fed the village, but created sustaining bonds of community. The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) movement is a contemporary expression of that tradition. In a CSA, a group of friends or neighbors, sometimes called members or subscribers, contribute financially to support a local grower or cooperative of growers to raise their food. With a CSA I have learned more about planning meals around what my home bioregion naturally provides with each season. I love knowing the people who grow our food by name, watching their children grow, and talking with them about garden joys and challenges, knowing that they care about the land they work. Our CSA reconnects me not only to my place on the planet but to a community of kindred folk cooperating to sustain one another’s lives. The Portland Area CSA Coalition can help you explore what’s available: http://www.portlandcsa.org/.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to contact me if you want to chat more about the connections between the Food Revolution and Deep Nature Connection.
Resources for further understanding:
- Northwest Earth Institute offers a study program titled Hungry for Change, which details the problems of and solutions for our current food system.
- Dr. Dean Ornish has published compelling research into the health effects of the American diet and how readily our bodies heal when our nutrition is derived from organic (which includes non-GMO) foods. His brilliant Ted Talk (Introduced by Ocean Robbins), What’s Good for You is Good for the Planet, makes the solutions clear. For more information about Dr. Ornish’s work, see http://deanornish.com/.
- John and Ocean Robbins (of the Baskin & Robbins family) have founded the Food Revolution Network which is “committed to healthy, sustainable, humane, and conscious food for all.”