Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Farming, Erin's version

My girls and I picked these tomatoes a few weeks ago, at a nearby farm where I get much of my produce. That's my intention, anyway, to eat as much locally grown fruits and veggies (and honey, etc.) as possible; in essence, to become more of a locavore. And so Emme and Nina and I descended upon Underwood Family Farms in late August to pick our own produce... with my sneaky under-the-radar motive to get my kids to understand what's involved in farming and bringing food to the table.

This is not a new concept, I know, but it's still fairly new to me. There was point, a few years back, when I finally realized that, by purchasing a blandly off-red, not-so-tasty Roma tomato in the middle of winter, I am essentially paying for the fossil fuel to transport it here before it ripens on the vine AND tipping the demand side of the supply/demand equation in such a way that tomatoes are created using hybrid seeds that can, yes, resist frost with tougher skins, but lose the very soul of their species. When I first heard about GMOs -- genetically modified organisms -- I shrugged my shoulders and said, "So what? Capitalism isn't so bad. This way, everyone can eat tomatoes year-round and they are less susceptible to freezing temperatures and bugs. What's the big deal?"

The big deal is that, when I finally ate an heirloom tomato from a local farmer's market, I nearly cried. The taste was juicy and unlike anything I could remember tasting in the US... though I'd eaten fresh produce daily when we lived in Italy in my teen years. (One of my mom's biggest complaints about Europe was about the small size of their refrigerators; however, there should be no need to keep leftovers since everything is so fresh and delicious that there is usually nothing left over!) And I'm not even scratching the surface about how GMOs adversely affect the environment and our bodies.

Like Marie Antoinette, who had her own little farmlet in Versailles (run by servants), I have wanted to indulge in the fantasy of farming and living off the land. I have enough space in my yard to do it, but... the truth is that I'm lazy and unmotivated and not sure that I have the stick-to-it-ness to actually get a crop or two to live through a season. And so it is that I am grateful for Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark for offering pick-your-own produce. I can wheel my barrow down the rows and pick what's in season, get my hands into the soil and become acquainted with the growing seasons and the cycle of a farm, then take everything home and make amazing dinners that taste farm-fresh... Without all the hard work.

Because, as much as I want to be good for the environment and my family and myself, I know that I'll do it if it's convenient. This way, we all win.

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