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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Beacon Bits -- It's All Local

I picked up a share of apples from Threshold Farm this past week as arranged by Common Ground Farm. The timing was good since the usual pick-up at the farm had been suspended as a result of storm damage form the remnants of hurricane Irene. Our crops had been damaged by extensive flooding; the planned harvest of winter squash and other ripened crops in time for the early autumn harvest was not possible secondary to soil erosion, exposure of roots and rotting after the water receded. So the downside of farming risks was felt very close to home. One CSA member said this was the first time in seven years of membership that pick-ups had been suspended. One board member stated it was clear that a 'grocery store mentality' would not be suited to this type of occurrence where nature dominates the course of events.

I happened to be present the last night of distribution because it was a shift I'd selected for some of my work hours. I was amazed to see the empathy with the farmers (Tim, Sam, et al.) and the concern about the future plans for recovery of the soil; there was  extra care with greeting each other during this sad evening. The children, adorned with colorful slickers and rain boots on yet another rainy evening, entertained us by stomping in the puddles and gleefully arching their necks to catch the cold, heavy raindrops on their face. The age and gender distribution of members of the farm was as varied as the carefully placed bins of potatoes, onions, peppers, squash and tomatoes across the tables. My fellow worker for the evening, a local minister, and I remarked how we were the 'crisis team', ready to deal with angry comments or hostility or grief because of the disappointment experienced by the members, but we were only heartened at the camaraderie, compassion and congeniality that we witnessed.

The week the distributions stopped was the same week I heard an NPR report about how the cattle business in Texas was detrimentally affected by the severe drought. Farmers were slaughtering steer at a faster rate because they didn't want to pay higher prices for hay to feed them. The predicted outcome is higher prices for beef in the future because of the diminished number of cattle in the here and now. Another NPR report addressed the high cost of infrastructure repair. They focused on highways and roads across America in dire need of major upgrades and noted that the first thing to be affected if the necessary construction projects didn't proceed would be limiting the transport of goods from state to state. It occurred to me that beef or no beef, vegetarian or not, trucking goods such as produce, dairy and meat across the county could be curtailed. It seems that the 'perfect storm' for the food industry  (i.e., random effects of Mother Nature and limited and excessive costs of transportation) is rapidly approaching and that it just may be time to adjust our thinking about how we get our food, which is exactly what the local food movement is all about. When I mentioned these thoughts to a colleague, they retorted, "that's why I get my food from Chile", oblivious to the implications of depending on global farming and its own set of problems.

Some food for thought: I am realizing more and more that inflation and the growing American economic crisis has created an opportunity to adjust our thinking about the increasing prices for food and fuel so that we can make better informed choices. Increasing prices for food make it easier to choose organic or local, usually thought to be a luxury because of additional cost, because the quality is better and support for the local community is enhanced. The time to choose local organic grass-fed beef over Texas cattle is now. The time to shop the local, year-round Beacon Farmer's Market is this coming Sunday. The time to visit the Beacon Natural Market is today. The moment to consider becoming more knowledgeable about "Slow Food" and becoming a 'locavore' has arrived. It couldn't be easier to step up to more mindful food shopping and eating practices because living in the Hudson River Valley couldn't make these choices more affordable and convenient. Along the way, it mobilizes the community to become resourceful and to depend on each other. It's time to check out the Slow Food movement in the Hudson Valley!

Spaghetti Squash Surprise
1 spaghetti squash, cooked
1/2 cup raisins (Paul Newman's organic)
1/2 cup chopped, mixed nuts (macadamia, Brazil, cashews) or 1/2 cup pine nuts
Grated organic Parmesan cheese
Melted butter (about 2 tbs.)
To prepare, spaghetti squash can be easily cooked in the microwave. Cut squash in half, seed and cook 5 to 10 minutes until tender. Use fork to scrape shell and create 'spaghetti' strands. Toss with melted butter. Mix in raisins and nuts to distribute throughout. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Serves 2.

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