The Good Earth: A Farmer's View
By Nathan Boone
Why go to the effort -- and often the expense -- of choosing locally grown organic foods to feed your family?
The answers are both obvious and unexpected. Organic foods allow you to avoid potentially harmful contaminants. But purchasing locally grown organic products also supports farmers, strengthens local communities, and helps you and your family to reconnect with nature. As an organic gardener myself, I believe that my family's health begins in the soil and with the agricultural practices I choose. Supporting local farmers also strengthens the local economy. Consider this fact: The US today has more prison inmates than full-time farmers. The rise of modern, large-scale industrial agriculture is responsible for the depopulation of rural areas and the decline of farming families. This migration from the land has caused our society to lose its vital connection to the living soil. Choosing local and organic, on the other hand, builds bridges between urban and rural communities and helps heal our relationship with nature.
To ensure that you are purchasing organic, look for the "Certified Organic" label. You can also browse at your local farmers' market or join a Community-Supported-Agriculture (CSA) project. Most CSAs will deliver fresh organic produce every week. To find one in your area, contact CSA West (530-756-8518).
The most profound way to transform your relationship to your food and to nature, however, is to bury your hands in the soil. Organic gardening is not difficult, and it is profoundly rewarding, especially if you involve your children. For tips, search out Eliot Coleman's The New Organic Grower (Chelsea Green Publishing, 1995) or Grace Gershuny's Start with the Soil (Rodale Press, 1997).
For seeds, equipment -- and inspiration -- order the Bountiful Gardens Seed Catalog, which is awash in photos and tips: Call 888-784-1722 to order. You can also contact Peaceful Valley Garden Supply Catalog, which carries a full line of organic-gardening implements and supplies. Call 888-784-1722. The Seeds of Change Research Farm in New Mexico also supplies seeds for organic gardens, with an emphasis on plants that once were native to various regions. Call 888-762-7333. Finally, for answers to the questions that inevitably crop up when you first start gardening organically, call Ecology Action in Willits, California at 707-459-0150. Then call your family in to dinner. -- Nathan Boone
Nathan Boone is an organic farmer and an agricultural activist in northern New Mexico.