“Not only are the hybrid vegetables in the stores relatively tasteless, they are also diminishing nutritionally along with their soil, as a result of single-cropping (the large-scale farming of only one crop rather than growing mixed and rotated plantings), which depends on oil-based chemicals and treats the soil as an engineered growing medium. Several recent studies demonstrate that some vegetables in Britain have lost one-quarter of their magnesium and iron and almost half of their calcium. Distance between the grower and the eater also depletes flavour and nutrition in produce after it's harvested – except for a few rare plants or fruits, such as winter apples, that need storage to reach their prime. Today's food is being shipped bizarrely around the world. West Coast hothouse tomatoes are sold in New York, and the salad greens of temperate Vancouver are imported from China or Mexico. Retailers prefer pretty vegetables and fruits that can be stored and shipped. It's cost-effective, even if they taste like cardboard. During the last fifty years we bought with our eyes, not our stomachs, until the local food movement and the recent gourmet revolution in America combined forces.”
The paragraph above is taken from this month's selection, Trauma Farm, by Canadian writer Brian Brett. Subtitled A Rebel History of Rural Life, it's part meditation, part memoir, and wholly engaging. Here is another passage:
“In a garden you learn the value of time. Weeding, like farming, is never accomplished. It's an activity, not a result, so a good gardener learns not to fret about finishing a job. It's all in the doing. Otherwise, the quack grass will drive you insane. After a while you learn to go into the 'zone' and just work. Beautiful work. You work well until your mind runs free...The glorious complexity of rural life soon teaches us how to think simply – when you listen to it. Dinner becomes dinner. Dirt becomes dirt.
Our planet is a soil-creation machine. All the elements come from galaxies created at the advent of time, far away and long ago. When I first read William Bryant Logan's Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of Earth, and his reference to all life on earth as 'the dust of ruined stars,' I suddenly understood how big the issue of dirt was...”
From dirt to potatoes, from green beans to eggs, from goats to peacocks, indeed, from life to death, Brett writes vividly of Trauma Farm and its many inhabitants.
Be sure to read all about it.
Copyright © 2012, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.