Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sowing Seeds of Gratitude

Whistling Duck Farm, Grants Pass, Oregon

The Earth sustains 75 billion tons of life. An interactive network of water, rock, soil and air, everything that lives is connected to every thing else. Is the Earth on your gift list this season?

Gifts to the earth don't require deep pockets, just that we make pro-planet choices and work to preserve our landscapes for future generations. What are the most important things we can do?

I posed this question to local farmers. It wasn’t surprising that “Purchase food from local farmers,” was the most popular response. Joan E McIntyre from Rent’s Due Ranch in Stanwood, Washington, summed it up: “Spend more money of local food than entertainment.”

Bees at Whistling Duck Farm

Americans spend big bucks for a concert or sporting event and, though recreational shoppers are checking out discount and thrift stores now, many are reluctant to part with a dollar more per pound for local, organic apples.

People want to buy food with a social conscience at Wal-Mart prices,” said Wade Bennett from Rockridge Orchards in Enumclaw.“Get to know your farmer,” Bennett added. “The next phase is hiring your own farmers!”
The more impersonal and distant the corporate world becomes, the more we crave personal connections. We pay mechanics, personal trainers, massage therapists and even life coaches generous living wages, why not farmers?

According to the American Farm Bureau, one U.S. farmer feeds 129 people. Connecting the apple we purchase to the farmer who grew it is essential in making the leap from buying industrialized, factory food that robs the environment to supporting a sustainable food system.

And sustainable farmers are earth-stewards who outwit pests and endure weather challenges to conjure food from the soil. These farmers help maintain our waterways, encourage native pollinators and support migratory birds and predatory insects that keep pests in check.

While a Wal-Mart receipt might feel like a bargain when less money leaves your wallet, the deal struck at the cash register obscures the effects these purchases have on landscapes in our own backyard. The true costs of industrial factory farms are reflected on the receipt because “externalities” are costs absorbed by others.

“Our costs are in the present, but our accountability extends into the future,” said Steve Phillips from Port Madison Farm on Bainbridge Island. “Live your live as an example for those who follow.”

“Make fewer trips to the grocery store, said Dorie Belisle of Bellewood Acres in Lynden.

“Drive your car to a bus stop,” added Blake Johnston of Growing Things in Carnation.

Gifts to the planet don’t come in fancy packages, but they fill our lives with a sense of purpose—a connection to our farming neighbors and the place we live. When we buy heirloom apples from a local farmer, ditch the car and take a bus, or plan a spring garden to attract bees and influence others, we change the planet’s future one action at a time.

“Practice what you preach,” said Liz Eggers of Grouse Mountain Farm.

Over a decade ago a study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed that 82.5 million people feed birds in their backyards. When that many people can dip into their wallets consistently to feed birds, consider the possibilities if millions more people adopted habits that continually nourished the planet and sustained local farmers.

And isn’t there a good feeling when you can proudly tell your family or guests that dinner came from a sustainable farm just a few miles away?

Sow a few seeds of your own this year with gifts from local farms. Buy your family a CSA subscription for next spring or shop farmers’ markets and farm stores for edible gifts like hazelnut butter, cheese, fruit preserves and dried fruits.

These are a few farms in the Northwest who offer CSAs. Check them out for spring farm shares.

The Fry Family Farm in Talent, Oregon

Denison Farms in Corvallis, Oregon

Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, Oregon

Wille Greens Organic Farm in Monroe, Washington

Nash's Organic Produce in Sequim, Washington

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