Sunday, October 16, 2011

We don't plow fields anymore

Today is Blog Action Day for this year and the theme is Food in conjunction with The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' World Food Day.  This topic's timing could not have been better for me since just yesterday I took a Food Fermentation class and learned the lacto-fermentation method.  As I write this my first try at sauerkraut is souring on the counter.  So my thoughts on food and culture, access, sustainability and health are inspired from learning new skills for my family's health.  Food inspires, nourishes, comforts; it is essential that we connect with it.

Connecting with what we take into our bodies, relates to more than the food itself but spreads to the people that tend it and the elements that grow it as well.  Having grown up on a farm I have watched this happen first hand.  Sun warming the soil, rain bending grain to the ground, and the brown soil turned over into the long rows of a plowed field.

As close as I was to these processes that contribute to the food cycle there are many of us who are not.  The shift in North American society from rural to urban living has left many of us without a connection to what we eat or the ones who grow it.  This was driven home for me 11 years ago while I was still in University.

The Fine Art department had a series of practicing, accomplished artists visit us for lectures.  One of the options for the students was to sign up and have an artist visit your studio space and critique your work.  When a feminist artist who's essays I had read gave a lecture that inspired me, I nervously signed up for a visit.    During her critique I realized that while I shared some political and cultural views with her we came from different worlds.  This hit home when as part of her overall comments she summed up her view of my earth honouring, Goddess inspired subject matter with the statement: I mean, we don't plow fields anymore.  

At the time I was too disappointed to respond to her.  Later as I went over what she said I felt upset that I hadn't responded to her by saying that I actually had plowed a field.  In fact all over the world people are still plowing, sowing, watering, and weeding.  As I look back on this experience I feel sad for this woman that she was so disconnected from her food that she had forgotten this.

Today I live in the city but I still feel connected to my food.  I work hard to impart the connections to my children and to never become so absorbed by urbanity that I would forget the farmers and gardeners who tend the land for us.  We plow fields, we sow cover crops, we interact with plants using Permaculture,  we are farmers, gatherers, foragers and cooks.  These things are in our bones and are part of our collective memory for thousands of years, but most of all still happening all over this world every day so that we can survive.  And not just survive but come together and share the most human experience of eating.

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