Smell the fresh fragrance of spring as you wiggle your winter toes among tiny green sprouts in fertile soil. Listen to the popping ears of succulent sweet corn growing knee high by the 4th of July. Feel the amber waves of whole grains swaying in the cooling breeze of late summer. See shiny bright red apples ripening to perfection and take a whiff of fresh apple pie cooling on your kitchen windowsill. Wait a minute! I must be in a fairy tale — or Disney’s 1958 film “America the Beautiful.”
What happened to our fresh, local and safe food? Just this week in “Farm to Table,” I read that a judge dismissed a case of Organic Seed Growers vs. Monsanto. Since the 1990s, Monsanto has been aggressively suing America’s farmers for alleged violating their GMO seed patents. Seed and pollen drift from genetically engineered corn, soybeans, rice and other crops, contaminating neighboring fields and farmers are then liable for patent infringement. Hundreds of farm families have not and cannot survive these lawsuits.
Here’s another snapshot of food reality in Dakota County where I live. The pantry food shelves of Eagan & Lakeville Resource Center served almost 10,000 families in 2011, a challenging 79 percent increase over 2010. Many ongoing customers are families with hungry kids and senior citizens. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, “60-somethings” needing healthy fresh food will surpass those under age 15 by 2016.
After years of persistently planting seeds about the beautiful necessity of community gardens, Pat Schoenecker gathered three other community collaborators, including myself, plus two students and faculty at the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley in spring of 2010. We started nudging an intergenerational organic garden into reality. Last year at this time, we launched “Nourish to Flourish,” a free multimedia gardening series sponsored by Valley Natural Foods of Burnsville and ISD 196. From spring to frost last fall, we harvested a healthy bounty of fresh and local vegetables for ourselves, our families and friends, a neighboring food shelf and an appreciative women’s shelter.
Late last fall, I read that the city of Minneapolis was forming a Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, after three years of healthy local food initiatives, thanks to hundreds of volunteers. When I read, “Must be a resident of Minneapolis,” I was envious! The potent seed of a south metro “Food Council” germinated in brain dirt.
I was already part of a small group of south-metro folks discussing ideas for a healthier community, originally brought together in March 2010 by Gary Johnson, community relations developer of Valley Natural Foods. Even though it was just Gary and me at our October meeting, “Homegrown South” as a grass roots, healthy food network in the south metro started sprouting. Immaculate Conception at its best, and free, too!
A small team of volunteer collaborators started taking the next steps, including monthly meetings and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/groups/homegrownsouth), and our community is starting to blossom. Homegrown South now has the potential to network hundreds of farmers, gardeners, organizations, businesses, city leaders and inspired food activists in support of healthy fresh and local food for all eaters in the south metro Twin Cities. In collaboration with Valley Natural Foods, Homegrown South hosted a successful “Community Food Day” on March 10.
The simple joy of eating delicious, nutritious food is a great reason to support fresh and local food. Buying and eating fresh, locally grown, chemical-free food is not only creating optimal health for us and our families. It is also the best proactive investment we can make in the economic, social and environmental health of our communities, our planet and generations to come. Anyone for more homegrown?
In collaboration with the Partnership Garden, Valley Natural Foods and ISD 196, the 2012 “Nourish to Flourish” series will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays at the School of Environmental Studies, 12155 Johnny Cake Ridge Road, Apple Valley, featuring films and conversation: “Locavore: Local Diet, Healthy Planet” on April 4; “Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?” on April 11; and “Everything You Want to Know About Gardening with Nature” on April 18. Register ahead at 651.423.7920 or visit www.district196.org/ce.