Farmer’s Diary

Gaia is not your stepmother
by John Lee

This is the season of plenty when each and all of us should be giving thanks for the resource that affords us the plenitude that some take for granted. In days gone by, families sat at the table and blessed the food on their plates giving thanks for the bounty of their labor and the good fortune to be able to enjoy a meal together. Almost all of that memory has been forgotten, unfortunately. If we say grace, it is most certainly not for the food on our plates, nor do we give thanks for the toil that brought the food to us (and then to the table). In fact, rarely enough do we sit down “together” to break bread.

It is within living memory that food was in short supply, that the agricultural economy was a local economy and all economized by necessity rather the desire to be green. Those were the days before refrigerated railroad cars and tractor-trailers which could haul everything from dairy to meat to produce from coast to coast and made feedlot beef the centerpiece of America’s dinner plate. Those were the days when terms like gourmet, gourmand and epicurean were nearly interchangeable and the privilege of the extremely wealthy or ruling classes. Land was not a scarce resource and harsh agricultural practices were largely limited to the exploitation of labor.

How times have changed. Gourmand is passé and gourmet is plastered on most of the (not even) upscale packaging in the grocery stores. Epicurean seems to have passed out of the vocabulary. Arable land is ever more scarce (not to mention fresh water).

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This is also the season for growers and consumers alike to be thinking of the seasons to come, to be planning ahead for the care and nurturance of the goddess which annually affords us our sustenance which we ought never to take for granted. It is the time to remember that without the grace of a rich soil and a skilled practitioner, the agricultural-
industrial complex would be in charge of an ever-increasingly bland and limited diet. While it seems that our economy may have gone full cycle, we have certainly not returned to a Depression-era lifestyle. Nonetheless, now is a great time to reevaluate many of our priorities, take stock of what really matters and to assert our intentions for the good of ourselves and our offspring. Our economy today is much more convoluted than that of yesteryears, so there are many more ways to make a difference, to show our appreciation for the earth that has given us so much. Perhaps the most important gift to Gaia and to ourselves is to reduce the high level of defilement that we inflict upon her. Mother Earth can no longer give it and take it at the rates we have currently established. We must become more respectful if the resource that we seem to take for granted weakens from overuse.

While it is incumbent upon developed nations to help feed those less fortunate, we must also continue to develop and implement smaller footprint cultural practices, less energy intensive diets and a minimized waste stream at home. Native Americans believe that earthly insults could only be remedied after seven generations. We must do much
better.We may have “conquered” the earth in a biblical sense—now we must be graceful and thankful for the bounty that we, who are so fortunate, do receive while remembering that the earth that blesses us also blesses countless others who are less fortunate.

John Lee is the manager of Allandale Farm (Boston’s last working farm), which specializes in naturally grown local produce. Each summer, John manages an outdoor children’s program on the farm. He writes for local news outlets and is deeply involved with farming and locally grown issues in Massachusetts.

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