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Missive #185


“Only a farmer could delve so deeply into the origins of food, and only a writer of Wendell Berry’s caliber could convey it with such conviction and eloquence. Long before Whole Foods organic produce was available at your local supermarket, Berry was farming with the purity of food in mind. For the last five decades, Berry has embodied mindful eating through his land practices and his writing. In recognition of that influence, Michael Pollan here offers an introduction to this wonderful collection.

Drawn from over thirty years of work, this collection joins bestsellers The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Pollan, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, as essential reading for anyone who cares about what they eat. The essays address such concerns as: How does organic measure up against locally grown? What are the differences between small and large farms, and how does that affect what you put on your dinner table? What can you do to support sustainable agriculture?

A progenitor of the Slow Food movement, Wendell Berry reminds us all to take the time to understand the basics of what we ingest. “Eating is an agriculture act,” he writes. Indeed, we are all players in the food economy.” — Book promo @ goodreads.com

If the people in our state and national governments undertook to evaluate economic enterprises by the standards of long-term economics, they would have to employ their minds in actual thinking. For many of them, this would be a shattering experience, something altogether new, but it would also cause them to learn things and do things that would improve the lives of their constituents.

A third weakness is the absolute dependence of most of the population on industrial agriculture—and the lack of any “backup system.” We have an unprecedentedly large urban population that has no land to grow food on, no knowledge of how to grow it, and less and less knowledge of what to do with it after it is grown. That this population can continue to eat through shortage, strike, embargo, riot, depression, war—or any of the other large-scale afflictions that societies have always been heir to and that industrial societies are uniquely vulnerable to—is not a certainty or even a faith; it is a superstition.

And so energy is not just fuel. It is a powerful social and cultural influence. The kind and quantity of the energy we use determine the kind and quality of the life we live. Our conversion to fossil fuel energy subjected society to a sort of technological determinism, shifting population and values according to the new patterns and values of industrialization. Rural wealth and materials and rural people were caught within the gravitational field of the industrial economy and flowed to the cities, from which comparatively little flowed back in return. And so the human life of farmsteads and rural communities dwindled everywhere, and in some places perished.

The most important possession of a country is its population. If this is maintained in health and vigour everything else will follow; if this is allowed to decline nothing, not even great riches, can save the country from eventual ruin. — An Agricultural Testament by Sir Albert Howard

There is no White no Christmas here. What this part of Arizona must be satisfied with is a storm that came a couple days ago and left 0.71″ of rain plus a lot of mud. All of the southern part of the state got hit by the storm with Tucson setting a new record for 22 December getting over an 1″ with Sierra Vista getting only slightly less. A lot of flood warnings everywhere.

I walked up the street about 100 yards yesterday and bought a Christmas present for myself – tamales. It is not the same as a tamalada but I will have one of them for my ‘linner’ today.

2 thoughts on “Missive #185”

  1. Years ago I used my entire backyard as a garden from May through October.My son and I ate everything grown there in less than a month.. I had spent more on gardening tools and seeds ,etc. than buying food at a store would cost ,
    I decided that I would rather enjoy our yard and haven’t had a garden since then…
    That was before
    genetically modified food became the majority of what’s available in average stores .It would be prudent to begin gardening again for health’s sake.However I rent a small place (without a large enough yard for a garden) in a rural part of NY state with such a short growing season that I doubt
    the food grown would last throughout the rest of the year . There are food co-ops that involve people sharing land, seeds and labor to grow healthy food to share, however the closest one would use 4 hours a day for me to participate in,and with today’s fuel prices would be cost prohibitive.At this point I think my most reasonable option would be to shop at stores during most of the year and at local farmers markets during the harvest seasons here.A saving grace is my having used herbs, vitamins and diet supplements to enhance my health for decades when I worked in the public susceptible to every illness being shared among the population.As may be evidenced by what I have written I don’t think relying on a government to decide how to best
    maintain my health
    and vigor would be a wise choice .
    Have a wonderful and blessed holiday
    with your furry companion,-Mary

    1. “A saving grace is my having used herbs, vitamins and diet supplements to enhance my health for decades…”

      Good for you! I have been on that same road for the past few years and am in better health now than I was 25 years ago.
      I am not in such great physical condition that I could grow much of a garden anymore. Until I graduated from High school I never lived in a town and we always had a big garden simply because we needed it; I grew up in what I refer to as the Extended Depression. We were poor but had the garden, a milk cow, a slaughter beef, some chickens and turkeys (also supplemented our meat with venison every year) so we ate healthy food and rather well.
      I’m now mostly a vegetarian eating a lot of grains, beans, vegetables and dry fruit every day. One breakfast a week when I go shopping where I get a veggie omelet with no cheese. HA

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