23 January 2009

The Gardener's Editoral

This article spawned from an earlier post. This is the neighborhood newsletter version, but the pre-edited version spouts off much harder on commercial farming and big business.

The Gardener’s Editorial

Each time I am out in my little garden, I think about buying produce. There is a part of me that feels rather elite, and I puff up. I think to myself in a pretentious manner, "Ha! I don't need to buy produce because I grow my own food." Like the old Grinch's heart, my ego grows a few sizes bigger. I don't view this growth as a positive thing. I don't like to think of myself as an egotistical person, but it seems that my ego grows at the rate of the tomatoes.

Some years though, I am forced to squish my ego back into its box and seal it with duct tape because the luck just ain't happening. I am not always so lucky in the garden whether it is due to a bad seed starting year, drought, too much rain, insect problems, disease, the animals digging things up, soccer balls flying through the air or a variety of issues. There doesn't have to be one specific cause. So with humility in check, I gratefully and graciously visit the local Farmer's Markets.

Besides a bad growing year, there are other reasons to support the local Farmers’ Markets. Let's face it, my ego might be big, but my backyard isn't. I think that I have done an efficient job practicing my version of square foot gardening and meshing companion and interplanting techniques in my sheet mulch garden, but there are only so many things that I can grow. I squish in my family's and my favorites, but with all the diversity and variety in tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, lettuces, beans, carrots...what am to do? There are the big space takers, too, like vining squashes and melons that would leave no room for my five year old to kick his soccer ball without taking out a few prized fruits. Some vegetables, such as potatoes and corn, zap the soil of nutrients. They also require more space than my backyard has to yield decent amounts. Living within city limits means no chickens or livestock, but the Farmers’ Markets feature farmers who sell eggs and meats. And no season is complete without fresh varieties of melons, apples, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, etc. that are all grown locally.

Locally grown brings another important factor. This is my view: If I can’t or don’t grow it, I find someone locally who does. Locally, to me, means as close to home as possible stretching from Knoxville to East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee to Northeastern Tennessee. Also, what this forces me to do is to eat seasonally which is more in rhythm with the natural flow of agriculture. The fresher the produce, the more nutrition it carries. The longer it takes for a fruit or vegetable to reach my mouth from the time it was picked, the more nutritional value the food loses. When produce is trucked in from the far reaches of the continent or world, chances are, it came from a large scale farm that practices environmentally damaging agriculture. Yes, there are large scale organic brands, but in my mind, it is still large scale farming. By choosing local foods, chances are good that these farmers practice environmentally friendly agriculture techniques and the food is more nutritionally sound.

Supporting local markets also helps support local people. Shopping with local farmers keeps the money right here in Tennessee and away from large commercial farms, big scale agriculture or chain stores that aren’t from around here.

Let’s face it, not every year is a good gardening year, so when I have to, I choose to spend my dollars supporting local farmers because they offer great variety and a better quality product. They practice good agriculture that helps preserve farmland. Economically, it supports my neighbor and not some fat cat in a in a high dollar air conditioned office and fancy clothes.

To help all people have access to the benefits of local Farmers’ Markets, Parkridge neighbor, Charlotte Tolley, is currently working to establish the EBT card system in Tennessee.

Local Farmers’ Markets

Market Square: Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
May through November in Downtown Knoxville on Market Square
New Harvest Park: Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
May 20 through November 20 at New Harvest Park near the “new” Target
F.A.R.M.: Tuesdays & Fridays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
April through October (Tuesdays) and November(Fridays) at the Laurel
Church of Christ on Kingston Pike across from the entrance to Cherokee

For more information and other area markets go to:
East Tennessee Markets

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