by Kristyn Dickey (Cheyenne Wells, CO)
Food: It is colorful and nutritious and sacred; celebrated among cultures, fueling our bodies and alleviating hunger around the world. It is comfort and joy and community.
In all of its essence, food is conceivably the most critical necessity to our sustenance as human beings. Yet, just as essential is the land and water that grows the food and fiber that sustains us.
In regions across the world, food is grown in all varieties, through various farming practices. America, in particular, has reached a level of technological advancement in food production, which allows for easy access to foods grown throughout the nation.
With nearly 40,000 supermarkets in America (www.statista.com), food is conveniently right around the corner. But…what about the foods grown in your area? Do you know what they are? Do you know how they’re grown, harvested and sold? Does this matter?
It matters. Here’s why: like water, food belongs to a “foodshed,” or a geographic area where food is produced and consumed. In America’s early settling years, food and livestock were grown, slaughtered, and prepared for consumption if not at the homestead, then at least within a short radius of under 100 miles. Currently, the vast majority of food we purchase travels over 1,300 miles, because of industrialized farming techniques, larger farms, and fewer producers.
Though the disconnect between humans and food may seem alarmingly wide, current trends that value more local production seem to be closing the gap. Look into the depths of your community. Can you identify gardeners, farmers, craft-makers, or even chefs who use local products? These folks are producing, sharing and contributing to your foodshed.
In the Llano Estacado (a 200-mile region stretching from Amarillo, TX to south of Midland, TX), for example, we are known for vast lands that produce the standard thousands of acres of cotton, corn, peanuts, and wheat. Dig a bit deeper, though, and we find that this region is also rich in diverse food production and practices, providing healthy greens, such as kale, swiss chard, microgreens; purple potatoes, lavender, tomatoes, okra, squash, onion, garlic, carrots, corn tortillas, bread varieties, jellies and jams, and beer. Not to mention, the people of the Llano are craftsman, passionate stewards of our land and resources, who empower and support the local foodshed movement.
In this West Texas arid environment, come rain or sunshine, our lands prove fruitful. As trustworthy citizens, it is our duty to share our resources, to understand and care for our soils, and to commit to strengthening communities to improve economic, ecological, social and spiritual health.
On behalf of Ogallala Commons, we invite you to join us in our effort of re-building and sustaining local food systems, and most notably and responsibly, rekindling the relationship that is man’s hand to land, seed to soil, crop to harvest, creation to consumption.
Readers, I encourage you to look around and ask questions: Where is my food grown? Whose hands have crafted what I consume? Can I grow food or share my art?
To farmers, ranchers, gardeners, artists, craftsmen, and active consumers, we tip our hats. Here’s to you. May we rejoice in the land that is labored, the food that fuels our health, and the art that bonds our humanity.
“I kiss the soil as if I placed a kiss on the hands of a mother, for the homeland is our Earthly Mother.” –Pope John Paul II