I wish I could be writing about plants, about all the wonderful foodstuffs springing forth into life inside the borders of my yard. I wish I could describe to you the vibrancy of the five color silverbeet swiss chard I finally planted by the front walk on Friday or the depth of the green brought out in the spinach seedlings as they slowly pushed their way from under the dirt toward the sun. I wish I could be describing the animated behavior and the distinct personalities of the hens foraging in my backyard, feasting on the multitudes of worms writhing in my lawn, enjoying all this moisture in bacchanalian revelry. Sadly, I can't, because I haven't yet got to do many of these things, aside from planting the chard and spinach and some lettuce that is currently clinging to the saturated soil in a pot on my back porch. You see, I live in northeast Ohio, where the meteorologists update their forecasts by the half day. It's raining. Still (or, Again). It's not really a bad thing though, because it gives me reason to pause and time to reflect.
I have this wild theory that Ohio is a section of the world that Mother Nature feels can readily roll with the punches, not unlike a real parent sometimes views their older kids, thinking they can take care of themselves. After all, parents' lives are busy, juggling a number of tasks, jobs outside the home, and the needs of others as well as their own. Some of the kids of these harried folks are granted a bit more freedom in exchange for their talents in self-sufficiency and resourcefulness. The only downside is that sometimes, in the pandemonium that life becomes, these kids often get overlooked as other things demand greater attention until their parents return at the last minute to (hopefully) save them from disaster or remember to feed them. I'm pretty sure Mother Nature occasionally turns on a weather dial for us here and gets pulled away to other, more pressing situations, only to return once we are buried under mounds of snow or beginning to tire from treading water. What's supporting my hypothesis, you ask? It's. Still. Raining.
Nature's confidence in us here is not unwarranted, by any means. Ohioans are a hardy, eclectic, industrious and resilient bunch of folks. My section of Ohio makes up the outer fringes of the vast agricultural hinterlands that encompass most points south of here. I adore this small bit of planet earth, where I can drive and in under an hour be surrounded by my choice of fabulous museums, a national park, an incredible view of an enormous lake, or (if such things interested me in the slightest) vast numbers of places I can part with my hard earned cash, including several Pottery Barns and bookstores. Cleveland and Akron are rich in a combination of both industrial and cultural history.
South of here is where all the magic really happens, and I'm only beginning to explore this territory. It is this section of our state that produces so very much in terms of agriculture. In Wayne, Holmes, Ashland and Stark counties, you'll also find the Amish and Mennonite communities, where hundreds of years of knowledge about a life made by hand still exist, where food comes from the field and folks still know their neighbors. Logsdon would probably argue that this food magic happens north of here too, which it certainly does, as well as east and west. In fact, if you pick any of Ohio's larger cities, rent a car, and drive 2 hours away from it in nearly any direction, you'll find a farm. In my corner of the state, most of these farms, the vast stretches of land along the sides of county roads, grow corn or soybeans usually (sometimes both in rotation). Like the same-ness that makes up our suburbs, a lot of the large farms are swimming in monoculture.
This blog's not really about politics, and I don't profess to know everything about the economics of farming for a living. I can't fathom the financial risk involved for families that have to depend upon weather to make money to pay for the land they make money from. As I sit in my home today and watch the rain fall, and my small-scale plans are delayed, I can't help but think what it must be like for people who depend on farming for either their livelihood or just their family's sustenance. It makes me appreciative of where my food really comes from and all that goes into growing it and getting it to where I am. It helps me understand in part WHY food prices go up when fuel costs go up and not to be so bitter about it. It helps me remember that the people who find this magical balance of science and art here in my climate, that can make things grow to eat, deserve my respect, support and business, particularly those who grow a variety of crops with sustainability in mind. These folks and how they farm involves a lot of patience and love, things that I really wish all of us could bring more of to our work. The world would surely be a better place for it.
Though you could probably guess with more accuracy than the meteorologists here get to enjoy, I won't go into details about my feelings regarding Monsanto, monoculture, and the unintended side effects some of our progress in agriculture has brought us, but I will encourage you to visit your local farmers markets when they open this spring. Think about what you eat and where it comes from. If you get to know the folks that grow what you eat, their human struggles, and, if they'll teach you, share in their knowledge, not only will your body be fed, but your soul will too. If you are interested in learning more about why this is so important or how you can help, I'd be happy to recommend reading or resources, even some in your area if I can thanks to the wonders of the internet.
Enjoy the rain today if it's falling where you live and say a small prayer of thanks to the farmers that brought you your lunch, wherever they may be. Then, when the sun comes out, go out and meet them.