LocalHarvest Newsletter, October 22, 2009

This is a story about trying to do something good, getting stuck, getting angry, leaning over the edge of gloominess, and then, finally, getting over myself. It is a story about the importance of saying yes.

First, a confession: sometimes I think if I hear one more person name 'recycling' as a substantive act of environmental protection, I will lose it. At the same time, I am as much of a ninny about radical change as the next guy. I am absolutely ready to move beyond "Ten Easy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth", but not quite ready to suspend all air travel, live in a tent, or eat squirrel.

What I thought I'd do was plant a few fruit trees. There's a large, empty lot near my house. It was destined to hold condos before the landowner's Ponzi scheme caught up with him. Thinking it might be a number of years before this land gets developed, some local food activists and I thought we'd plant half a dozen apple trees on the perimeter, where they might fit in with the eventual plans for the property. We called it a community orchard. We envisioned people walking by and picking a couple of apples to snack on during their walk: local health food, to go.

All was going well. The bank that owns the property initially agreed to the idea, provided the neighbors in the adjacent condo units were amenable. Meetings were held. Plans were made. People got excited. And then we hit a snag. The banker decided he needed a series of indemnification documents. Price tag: $600.

We can skip over the part of this story where I paced around my office waving my arms and yelling. There was no entity behind the orchard, mind you, just a group of like-minded people trying to implement what we thought was a good idea. The money for the project was being pooled from members of the group, our friends and neighbors. I could not bear to nearly double the project's budget just to ensure that the bank wouldn't get sued if an apple dropped on someone's head. I wanted to drop the whole thing. For a few days, things got bleak in my own head. This thought kept coming back to me: if we can't get a few trees planted on an empty lot, how are we ever going to take on the really big stuff?

Finally I was ready to stop wailing and gnashing my teeth and consider Plan B, offered by an inspired activist who proposed that we locate the orchard on public land, via a new community garden approval process she has been crafting with the City.

Between you and me, I had not wanted to work with a bureaucracy to get these trees planted. It felt too complicated. Trouble is, I still believe that a community orchard is a good idea. So, if making it happen involves getting over feeling lazy and too busy, inexperienced and shy, so be it. I'm trying to make an internal shift from, "That's too hard," to simply, "Okay, yes." Yes to overcoming inertia. Yes to complexity. Yes to not knowing what I'm doing. Yes to getting bigger inside.

As you have probably heard, this coming Saturday, October 24, people from nearly 170 countries are putting together over 4,000 events for the International Day of Climate Action. It is activism on an extraordinary scale, designed to send an unequivocal message to the United Nations Climate Change meeting in December. If you haven't yet visited the 350.org website, do. You will find events happening near you and see photos and descriptions of events already happening worldwide. Some are wildly creative, and many are surprisingly moving.

In my town, activists will be collecting pledge cards on Saturday, asking people to commit to whatever climate actions they choose. Essentially they are asking, "What is the biggest thing you can say yes to?" The International Day of Climate Action has the potential to move our national conversation beyond "Ten Easy Things...", but only if we are ready to acknowledge that significant change is often not at all easy. Shoot, just getting a few fruit trees planted may turn out to be a lot of pushing uphill. Even so, it's worth doing. So... what are the biggest things we can say yes to?

As always, take good care and eat well,

Erin Barnett

From the LocalHarvest Store:

We're giving away an organic turkey this fall, just in time for Thanksgiving. To be eligible for the giveaway, order a turkey from the LH catalog between now and November 15. The next day we will use our favorite random number generator to choose a winning customer, and the lucky winner will be announced in this newsletter on Tuesday, November 17. The winner can choose to either receive a second turkey, free, or to have the payment for their original turkey refunded. Whether or not you win the free bird, we're sure you'll be pleased with your LocalHarvest turkey.

Speaking of turkeys, it's also a great time to order fresh organic cranberries or other great holiday ingredients from LocalHarvest farmers.

Find the CSAs

Last April we wrote about our quest to find all the CSAs in the country. We asked for your help in identifying CSAs that are not listed in our directory, and put up a $100 gift certificate to the LocalHarvest catalog as a little incentive for the person who submitted names of CSAs who aren't yet listed in our directory. Many of you responded – thank you! – and as a result, we will soon be sending an invitation to about 300 CSAs, telling them about LocalHarvest and asking if they want to join us. We appreciate your help in rounding out our CSA directory!

The winner of our prize, is Cheryl Oldenburg, of Westbrook, ME. She sent us over 70 names of CSA farms. Thanks for your help, Cheryl, and to all who participated!

Plant Obsession Stories

Last month we invited readers to submit stories of plant obsession, in honor of the new movie based on Michael Pollan's book by the same name, "The Botany of Desire". The movie airs next week on PBS: Wednesday, October 28, from 8-10 p.m.

The winning entry was submitted by Suzanne Santos from Kyle, TX, whose story is printed below. What farmers won't do to save their peas! We'll be sending Suzanne a copy of "The Botany of Desire" DVD. For other stories from the contest, visit the contest page.

Peas in the Middle of the Night
It was the coldest night of the year, in January of 2001. Yet I was cozy in a restaurant full of people and good food celebrating an annual fundraiser of Sustainable Food Center, where I still work. I was worried about my peas, though.

Young, ankle-high sugar snap peas planted for early spring harvest suffering in the biting winds hitting 20 degrees later than night (not a usually Texas night, even in winter).

Upon leaving the party about 11:30 pm and driving 25 miles home to Kyle, Texas, in a skimpy evening dress, I did nothing but worry all the way home about the peas.

When I got home, I threw on a jacket, slipped on some gym pants and farm shoes while still wearing the dress, and cajoled my then-husband to help me wrap up the peas in row cover, using clothes pins to latch it down in the winds.

That spring, we were the only area farm that had peas.

Food from the Farm: Open-Face Garden and Orchard Sandwich

We like a good sandwich. Who doesn't? Packed with produce as this one is, and you can grab a handful of chips and call it lunch, or set it next to a bowl of soup for a satisfying supper. This recipe was submitted by Karen Paulus of Paulus Orchards in Dillsburg, PA. She tells us that it was a prizewinner in the "Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious Pennsylvania Vegetable Recipe Contest". We really enjoyed the combination of savory and sweet in this sandwich. Thanks, Karen!
(Recipes and More...)