The flood leaves a watermark stain on the tree’s leaves as U.S. Geological Survey surveyor Scott Hedgecock works to survey the water levels along the Tangipahoa River along Highway 190 just west of Robert, Louisiana. (Photo by Ted Jackson NOLA.com )
Climate change is not entirely accepted, even by those for whom it should be obvious possibly because it is not entirely understood. People don’t feel its effects as they move in comfort from their air-conditioned personal vehicle to living amid a span of concrete around their glass-enclosed home away from coasts or forests, getting most of their information through a thumbnail headline or from friends who work and live in the very same setting. In other words, industrialized countries.
Another culprit may be the environmental work done in the 1970s and 1980s, which often used unfamiliar phrases that lacked relevancy such as global warming (or even the term used at the beginning of this post, climate change) and focused mostly on national policy changes or in shaming users of resources without compelling evidence of the effect of that reduction. Environmentalists were seen as “do-gooders” who meant well but lacked realistic goals (this was actual feedback from focus groups at an organization I worked at in the 1980s.)
The strong pushback showed the fallacy of engaging ordinary citizens using lofty or scientific terms and led to many turning to food as an organizing tool. After all, what could be better as an impetus to understanding and sharing the repair of the natural world but food?
Yet in the roll call of environmentalists circa 2016, food system organizers are usually in the middle of the pack. Most can certainly outline the issues involved with food production that both imperil and reboot Mother Nature, but are rarely working directly on those issues in concert with environmental organizations. Farmers markets have done an admirable job on promoting entrepreneurial activity and improving access, but efforts to highlight the stewardship of the natural world by market farmers has fallen a little behind.
I hear our great writer Wendell Berry exhorting us to remember the farmers:
“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.”
The “eyes to acres” ratio suggested by Berry and Wes Jackson needs to be included in regional planning theory and in the metrics that assess our work. Within the framework of disaster, the acknowledgment of the need for that ratio could mean”deputizing” farmers to supply immediate indicators of the level of destruction.
Disasters point out the fragility of a place and at the same time remind us of the strength of human ties and the resolve of communities. Following that line of thinking, deeper knowledge of local and regional systems would help knit everyone more closely together, allow for rescue and recovery to happen faster even as it is offering a narrative with more relevancy to those in far-off but similarly sized food systems. If the watershed or the regional system for food production were one such way to describe the need among those participating in food initiatives, assistance could be met one farm, one family or even one small town at a time.
Scrolling down through the list of FMPP successful proposals shows the ingenious and unique approaches that farmers markets and farmer advocates are employing across the U.S. to further community food systems.
Congratulations to everyone.
list of 2014 FMPP awardees
When markets discuss what the centralized card swiping systems add to their market, they often talk of shoppers not needing to stop for cash on an early Saturday morning or about being able to reintroduce markets to their low-income neighbors who want to use their electronic benefit program funds. Both reasons are extremely important but I often share the story of Crescent City Farmers Market’s use of the wooden token systems to highlight community. One of the loveliest examples of their system is the honoring of late local heroes on their tokens: founding CCFM farmer Billy Burkett, chef Jamie Shannon of Commander’s Palace, cultural cooking educator Lee Barnes and Tabasco company cook, farmer Jim Core and author Eula Mae Doré have been remembered this way.
Diana Pinckley, local community force and early CCFM board chairperson joined the others this year; her tragic passing in 2012 was a blow to many across the region who depended on her for advice, support and a pithy comment warmly offered.
Appropriately, Memorial Day weekend was chosen to offer the newest token and Diana’s husband and close friends toasted her with beet lemonade and proudly used “the Pinckley” to get their strawberries and shrimp.
I am reminded every time a token is unveiled how sweet it is for the honoree’s family and friends to see how the market community remembers them and how local currencies can do many things for a market besides offering a shortcut to sales. I am proud to see our New Orleans market lead in this way.
Not a farmers market, but it has the same values of local sourcing, direct sales/education between producers and shoppers, educational activities and fun as the longtime farmers markets in the city. These folks have spread the gospel of sourcing locally with this and with their Eat Local Challenge each June. A great sister project to the Crescent City Farmers Markets, with which they work closely.
Jenga is the founder of Backyard Gardeners Network in Lower 9th Ward, raw food entrepreneur and in this video, is talking about her excellent work in the lower 9th ward section of New Orleans. Jenga’s garden will be on my Slow Food tour May 18th. If you believe in community food systems at their most collective and grassroots level, you may want to check her work out more and support her efforts:
This is one of my favorite pieces about New Orleans, written by Jenga as a response to a unworthy story by NYT about lower 9:
Jenga’s response to NYT
Really like this book. the author put some very nice healthy recipes and paired them with songs, art and history. The idea of approaching a meal as a way to create an entire mood is a great one for a cookbook. His activism is front and center- he has an impressive resume founding and supporting food activism projects.
A worthy book for an individual chef or for any food project that uses seasonal items to educate about healthy alternatives for preparing Southern/African-American cultural recipes. I use this cookbook as much as any in my kitchen.