Support Your Local Farmer, Craftsperson, and Shopkeeper

It looks like if there is a common thread running through recent posts it is the idea of buying local. My concern was originally in the way of food. I feel a bit leery of the commercialization of the organic movement. Call me a “Luddite” but when the big Agri-Business takes over “Organic” food, I tend to not believe they have anything other than money in mind.

David St Lawrence in his blog this morning had this to say:

Why buy locally, when you can get things cheaper from overseas?

It’s really simple. When you buy directly from an artisan or from a farmer, there is a sense of connection that matters. If the artisan and farmer have pride in their work, you take part in a transaction that validates the quality of the goods you have purchased and you have obtained something you are proud to take home.

You are not just buying a cup, a jug, or a head of lettuce. You are buying the careful effort that went into producing what you just bought. Afterward, you will find yourself telling others about your purchase and sharing your joy at finding something that was just right for you.

You have made a connection between yourself and another human being with a meaningful transaction.

I agree with David. By buying locally you are supporting your local economy. If the local economy grows there will be more opportunity. Think of “opportunity” as the real crop you are helping to grow with your support. Now, David (as the new director of the Jacksonville Center) has a vested interest in getting people to support their local craftsperson and artist, but, the only way this country is going to make it in the “Global Economy” is if we change the paradigm on what we buy.

The Blog of Henry David Thoreau

The Blog of Henry David Thoreau:

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Thoreau’s Journal: 22-Jun-1851
As I walk the railroad causeway, I notice that the fields and meadows have acquired various tinges as the season advances, the sun gradually using all his paints. There is the rosaceous evening red tinge of red clover,—like an evening sky gone down under the grass,—the whiteweed tinge, the white clover tinge, which reminds me how sweet it smells. The tall buttercup stars the meadow on another side, telling of the wealth of dairies. The blue-eyed grass, so beautiful near at hand, imparts a kind of slate or clay blue tinge to the meads.

What a great idea…go be inspired.

Saturday, June 17, 2006
Thoreau’s Journal: 17-Jun-1854
Another remarkably hazy day: our view is confined, the horizon near, no mountains; as you look off only four or five miles, you see a succession of dark wooded ridges and vales filled with mist. It is dry, hazy June weather. We are more of the earth, farther from heaven, these days. We live in a grosser element. We [are] getting deeper into the mists of earth. Even the birds sing with less vigor and vivacity. The season of hope and promise is past; already the season of small fruits has arrived. The Indians marked the midsummer as the season when berries were ripe. We are a little saddened, because we begin to see the interval between our hopes and their fulfillment. The prospect of the heavens is taken away, and we are presented with a few small berries.

‘Organic’ Loses Its Freshness

‘Organic’ Loses Its Freshness: Until recently, organic practices were sneered at by those in academia, in government and in chemical agribusiness — now called ‘conventional agriculture.’ Thanks to a fast-growing demand for organic food, the sneers are now reserved for those who practice organics on a small scale. Long accustomed to being marginalized, unsubsidized and told to ‘get big or get out,’ small organic growers stubbornly plug away at their work, but the ‘O’ word that once gave them a special niche now means something entirely different. Currently it is used to lend credibility to ‘industrial organic’ food produced on large, factory-style farms, and while its newfound popularity may have brought some of those do’s and don’ts into the mainstream, I think more of agribusiness has rubbed off on organics than vice versa.

The meaning of the organic label rests on a shifting balance between what the corporate lobbies want and what the watchdogs can prevent. Most organic brands are now niche labels of larger food companies that have no interest in the finer, more holistic aspects of the grower’s craft. And many who practice that craft are scratching their heads and asking, ‘What can I call my product instead?’

Barbara Damrosch has written a good piece laying out the changes that have occurred in the Organic Foods area. And her main point is very salient, buy fresh, locally grown, organic preferably, food produced by someone you know. Once the relationship between producer and consumer has been re-established, both will benefit.

My grandfather was an early convert to the J I Rodale school of gardening. By the time of his retirement he was gardening almost an acre organically. I grew up reading Organic Farming & Gardening, and for years I kept a stack of back issues for reference. I have watched as “Organic” has gone from “health food” to mainstream supermarket fare. Unfortunately, the definition of the word HAS been legislated into oblivion by the Corporate Ag group.

Maybe we need a new word. Europe seems to favor “biological” (as in the French “biologique”). It evokes the plant sciences more than it does the chemistry lab. Some committed growers describe what they grow as “beyond organic.” Others have proposed “real food,” “authentic food” or “food with the farmer’s face on it.” One I know sends his produce out with the trademarked slogan “Earth Passionate Agrarianism” and the tag line “Taking Organic Seriously.”

This all relates back to “know your farmer”, if you know your farmer, and trust him or her, chances are your food will be produced in a manner that you approve of… If not you will go somewhere else to buy your food. Since you are familiar with both your farmer and his farm, you will be aware of the general health of his farm and able to trust the products he is selling.

Pandemic

Latest measles case brings total to 14 – The Boston Globe: “June 21, 2006

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed another case of measles yesterday, bringing the total to 14 since early May. The patient, a woman in her early 20s, has recovered from the disease and is back at work at Hill Holiday, a communications company in the John Hancock Tower, where the outbreak began. No other suspect cases have been identified within Hill Holiday. For more information on measles, visit www.bphc.org , the Boston Public Health Commission’s website, or www.state.ma.us/dph, the Department of Public Health’s website.”

Iowa Mumps Outbreak Contained: “Friday, June 16, 2006

The number of mumps cases in Iowa has declined dramatically over the past few weeks, and an outbreak of nearly 2,000 cases appears to be contained, state public health officials said Friday.

‘People became more aware of it, people were being diagnosed faster, staying home when they had mumps so they are not transmitting it, and we had many more people get vaccinated, so our number of susceptible people went down,’ said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, state epidemiologist.

Iowa was the worst hit of 12 states, mostly in the Midwest, that have reported a total of more than 3,200 mumps cases. No deaths and few hospitalizations have been reported, but the numbers dwarf mumps reports from recent years.

As of Wednesday, there were 1,938 confirmed and probable cases of mumps reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The number was up just 14 cases from the previous week.”

And everyone is worried about avian flu? Looks like it’s going to be death by childhood disease instead. I guess it doesn’t matter what specific outbreak you fall prey to, once one of these decides to mutate we will all be in trouble. The word from the authorities on the measles is that if you were born between 1957 and the late 60’s your immunization wasn’t all that effective…Oops.

Maybe Fred has the better idea, a small isolated place in the country on a nice quiet gravel road…Just wear a mask when you come to visit, please.

Our Stories, Mythology in the Making

Wandering through the blogs I read regularly today led to another interesting discovery…
via Colleen thru her sister Kathy to Christina Baldwin and her book “Storycatcher”. Now it looks like I need to make another trip to the Amazon site. In reading at the storycatcher.net site a couple of things caught my eye…

Story is really all we leave each other. Even the most precious heirlooms, including the ones I tend in my own home, will not last: someday they’ll end up in an estate sale or a house will burn down or they will simply lose meaning. What has the most lasting value is the story of who we are, who we come from, where we aspire to go.

And then there is this:

Story has a beginning, middle and end that makes a point, delivers an insight or shares an experience. This is called narrative… Narrative is how we remember, how we communicate, and how we assign meaning to events.

It looks like this may be what it is that is driving all of our blogging. The need to put the narrative back into the structure of our life. Without the stories of our life, can it really be said that we have left anything of us behind?

This will require more study…

“(Let us) make our own story in the world. (May) our grandchildren say about us that there was a time when many things looked dark, when people felt separated from each other … and people were distracted and busy, driven along in the deterioration of many things they held dearly. But then, in the nick of time, something that no one could see, and no one could stop began to restore hope and instill them with wisdom and action: people began to remember the sweetness of story.”

Home and Heart

Reading Fred First is like conversing with myself. He manages to say things in a much more articulate and beautiful way than I probably would. Take the following excerpt:

Home and the Heart

Why is there ‘no place like home’?

Because I am away from home, I am wondering just what it means to feel ‘at home’. I deeply love the southern Appalachians where I live, but feel certain I could love other places as well, had the Great Gumball Machine yielded ME in another instance of place and time.

I sometimes wonder, if I had grown up in some flat and featureless place (Kansas, maybe), would I have ever developed a ‘sense of place’, a feeling of belonging to a place that, upon leaving, all I would think of is how much I looked forward to returning, of standing in my own fields again?

I’m talking about a relationship with the land, WHERE you live, not the people, not the city, not the community. What makes one either bond to the physical features of where they live, or not? Is it simply a matter of loving the one you’re with, geographically speaking? Growing where you’re planted? I don’t think so; at least not for me.

I know whereof he speaks. I was born on the coastal plain of east Texas. Houston, Texas was the place of my birth; Pasadena, Texas was the locale of my upbringing and early adulthood. In my early teen years I was exposed to the Texas Hill Country, and it was here that I hung my dreams of moving to when I was able. Over the years I would drag the family on camping trips into different parts of this rugged portion of the State in which I was born and love. On the drive home from every trip I have ever made into the central part of Texas I began to get depressed as I would get within 100 miles of home. For a long time I could not understand why this mood would hit. Then one trip I noted where exactly I began to get moody and it was then I noticed the one glaring fact…my mood came on exactly where the hills (such as they where) played out and the coastal plains of my birth began.

I began to really pay attention to the sacred places in my life (and at that time I really hadn’t seen any real mountains), and all of them were heights. Enchanted Rock, a monolithic granet dome located in central Texas, has always been a favorite. The Devils Backbone, a stretch of Texas state road west of San Marcos, is a watershed divide with some nice views in each direction from the road. The drive to Lost Maples State Park where the road plunges of the top of the plateau and gets to the bottom as fast as it can…The one commonality of all of these and many others is the overview.

I have to wonder if Fred’s Goose Creek Home would be as appealing to my personality. I have never lived in a place without the wide open horizons of my native state and have to wonder at my ability to adapt in a valley…don’t know if I could handle the closed in nature of the place. I guess, as always after reading a Fred Fessay esay, I now have another thing to think about…Thanks Fred.

Fragments From Floyd: Curiosity, Wonder and Awe

Fred managed to wake up a bunch of blog readers this morning and the conversation is already going strong…

Fragments From Floyd: Curiosity, Wonder and Awe: “Curiosity, Wonder and Awe
Sometimes, when you are haunted by the same issue again and again in the period of a few days, and seemingly in random unrelated conversations, you might start to think that there is an idea, an inspiration, a message knocking at your door. And you probably ought to go see who’s there before they change their mind and think you’re not worthy of the call. “

Go on over to Fragments and add your thoughts on the subject.

SIMPLY WAIT: BECAUSE THEY BOW TO YOU WHEN THEY SAY GOOD-BYE

SIMPLY WAIT: BECAUSE THEY BOW TO YOU WHEN THEY SAY GOOD-BYE: ” It occurred to me that we don’t bow to each other nearly often enough. Not physically or spiritually. We don’t acknowledge the sacred in every encounter, every conversation, every parting.”

I know it’s not just me…Fred First attracts the most interesting readers and bloggers to Fragments From Floyd. Patry Francis has some interesting things to say about the sacred and the sublime…

Loose Leaf Notes

Loose Leaf Notes: ““Mining the Gold of a Story,” which comes from this excerpt from the book: In this physical world, we have to mine for treasure. Gold and silver are precious gems are not usually found lying around on the surface of the earth. It’s the same with us; we have to excavate our own treasure, down through the door of our childhood, through the pain of what hurts, into the grief of our losses. Life nudges us to go deeper because to live on the surface is superficial. There is so much more.”

Colleen has a way of really saying something that just reaches out and shakes you by the shoulders and says ‘wake up, this is important.’ Thanks for the wake-up call today, Colleen.

“Success goes to those who tell their story to the marketplace”

I was reading in Ripples this morning where David was discussing a conference on Sustainable Development held in Abingdon, Va. The following quote really jumped of the screen at me…

Ripples: post-corporate adventures: Sustainable Economic Development for Southwest Virginia?: “Governor Kaine emphasized this point near the end of his speech. ‘Success goes to those who tell their story to the marketplace.’ In a sense, that was the underlying theme of the entire conference, telling the story about the regions assets in a way that would attract tourists and investment.”

That says it all about the organizations and businesses that have managed to involve me to the point of being a walking evangelist for them. It was the story that first brought me to try them, it was the reality of their living the story that keeps me going back, and it’s the belief in the philosophy that created the story that I seem to connect with.

One of the very first “stories” that brought me to the area of the Blue Ridge Mountains we now call ours, was the story of the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis. I stumbled on their website and read the history long before I planned that family trip to North Carolina. It was their story that set the location for our first visit. And it was the daily stops to sit on the porch and sip a ginger beer that helped make the stay a success.

During the planning for that trip, I first read the story of Grandfather Mountain and the love of one man for a “place” and the transformation that love brought to a mountain over the life of the man…which is why the recent death of a man I hadn’t ever met was like losing a member of the family. May you rest peacefully on the mountain, Hugh Morton.

And it was the story behind the rescue of the Orchard at Altapass (and speaking of serendipity, as I started writing this paragraph Bill Carson’s “Story of Altapass” popped up on my computers MP3 player) that led me to make the trip to visit that institution on the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where Bill piled me into his vehicle to run down the road to visit the graves of the McKinney’s who first settled there.

It isn’t just the stories though that makes these places special, it’s the people involved in living the stories today. And to all of you who are involved with these groups, I want to say thanks for being so very neighborly…It’s what keeps us coming back and keeps our “North Carolina Mountain Dreams” alive.

p.s. Just as an explanation of what makes the fact that Bill Carson’s “Story of Altapass” playing at the exact time I was typing the paragraph about the Orchard such a coincidence, my MP3 player is set to shuffle and has a playlist that contains over 5000 pieces.