After watching Food, Inc. (read Here) my husband, Nick, and I decided to put in a garden and begin putting up our own food and buying from the local farmers market. We had put in a garden previously - way too many tomatoes!, but not really devoted ourselves to gardening and actually putting up the produce. I was raised in a home where my mom had a garden every year and every summer and fall was spent putting up fruits and veggies for the winter, tending the garden and picking vast quantities of blueberries and strawberries. I felt I had the knowledge to can, preserve and put up my own fruits and veggies in a safe manner. I bought Ball's Blue Book Guide to Preserving; several boxes of jars, lids, rings; a water bath canner with all the accessories and set to work putting up our own food. I have been canning and freezing our own produce for the past two years and while it is a tremendous amount of work it is incredibly rewarding. To open a freezer full of food throughout the winter or to open a pantry lined with rows of beautiful jars filled with fruit is a sight to behold.
Looking back I recognize that there are many aspects to gardening, canning and preserving that come from a place I privilege. The ability to buy the items I needed to begin canning; the space in my home I was able to use for cleaning, cooking and storing the preserved foods; the space in my yard to convert to a large garden and the knowledge to do all of these things places me in a category of privilege. Recognizing this causes me to stop and ask the questions
- What has caused the tradition of gardening, canning and preserving to be looked upon as a 'rural' past time?
- Why has this knowledge slowed, or stopped, being passed down generation to generation?
- Why have home economics and cooking declined, or been eliminated, from our school systems?
- Why is gardening viewed as a hard, dirty and time consuming task?
I do not have answers to these questions, but I believe that in our consumer/capitalist based society where we want things completed quickly, easily and attempt to apply standardized processes to nearly everything in our lives; we have lost sight of the simple pleasures of digging ones toes into the dirt, the sun warming our back and reaching down to pull sun-warmed strawberries from the bush or a carrot from the ground and eating it in the moment. We have lost our patience with waiting four months for tomatoes to ripen and we have created a school system where teachers are not allowed to embrace their creativity, but rather are required to teach to standardized testing curriculum.
Hope is ever present though! Schools are being created that incorporate cooking, canning, preserving, gardening and animal husbandry back into their curriculum; classes are being offered at local tilth organizations covering everything from backyard chickens to permaculture; CSA's (community supported agriculture), farmers markets and food banks are working together to offer food to more diverse socioeconomic groups and people are educating themselves through books, documentaries and community events about food sovereignty, food justice and the issues with our food system.
I believe that while hope may be the greatest doublethink idea out there, it is still an emotion at the core of social movements and provides society with the ability to maintain an energy needed to keep moving forward and sustain the momentum needed to impact change in our food culture.
**For links to my blog on canning, preserving and all our wacky gardening adventures please click: