LocalHarvest Newsletter, July 21, 2015|
Love Made Visible
Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.
It is difficult to look back on the world as it was when we started developing LocalHarvest in 1998 and really remember how different it was. There were only about 500 CSAs and 1,700 farmers markets in the United States at that time. Farmers who did direct marketing had a difficult time finding customers. "Online marketing" was a new concept, and few farmers were wrestling with the dial-up Internet connections common in rural areas long enough to delve into it. And while the market for organic food was growing steadily, the idea of "local food" had yet to take root in the national consciousness.
Things have changed dramatically in the years since. There are now well over 6,000 CSAs, and over 8,000 farmers markets, representing 1100% and 370% growth respectively. While marketing is an ongoing issue in some areas, we regularly hear about cities having trouble attracting enough farmers to meet the sales demand at their markets, and of waiting lists at CSAs. Online marketing has changed too. Sixty percent of the farms in our national directory now have their own website, and a considerable portion do some amount of their sales online. The notion of "local" has become a community value. Good food is here to stay.
I am in a reflective state of mind because at the end of the month I will be leaving my current role with LocalHarvest. It is time for me to put to use a graduate degree I earned some years back, but the leavetaking is still bittersweet. Anyone who gets to work with and for people they admire is blessed, and I have been doubly fortunate because not only do I hold LocalHarvest farmers in highest esteem, but I also have gotten to work with an outstanding group of co-workers. After close to fifteen years with this little company it is impossible to imagine myself leaving entirely, and I hope to stay involved as a close friend of the LocalHarvest family.
Besides having a deep admiration for farmers, I have great appreciation for the people whose commitment to good food keeps farmers in business. It was the need to connect these two groups that brought LocalHarvest into being. Over the years I have tried to use this newsletter to facilitate an ongoing conversation between farmers and their customers. Sometimes I have spoken on behalf of farmers to educate consumers about what it is like to farm, other times as a consumer expressing appreciation to farmers for their hard work. Still other times I have posted calls to action when there has been a regulatory issue requiring collective effort. Many of you have written to me when you have liked or adamantly disliked what I said here. Through this ongoing dialogue we have influenced one another's thinking and the conversation has gone deeper. More than anything else about LocalHarvest, I love the symbiotic relationships the network reflects and supports. Farmers, market managers, chefs, artisan food producers, researchers, and millions of people who love good food all benefit through their connections to one another. All in the name of good food.
Years ago, I used to think it was just about the food. Journalists would ask me why people were drawn to local food and I would tell them that it just tastes better, which is true but it goes beyond that. It also feels better. The bigger truth, as I see it now, is that good food reconnects us to our spirits. When food has been grown and prepared with deep care and attention, we can tell. We recognize it and are drawn to it. When we buy this food from the people who grew it, and talk with them about it, and give our attention to its beauty, we are both drawn more deeply into the center of ourselves, and drawn up and out of ourselves into a circle of connection. This drawing in and drawing out could be called many things. I call it love.
Some farmer friends have a sign hanging in their office that says it best: "Food is love made visible." Yes. For me, it is not going too far to say that love is the driving force behind the resurgence of passion for local food over the last fifteen years. When love reveals itself as food, we respond.
Before I sign off I want to let you know that we are delighted to have found a wonderful writer and former rancher, Rebecca Thistlethwaite, to write our newsletter beginning in August. Having heard her ideas and read some of her writing, it is clear that she will bring new energy and depth to the LocalHarvest newsletter. I think you will be pleased.
A Call to Action
As I have often said here, we all need to work together to create a just food system. This week, the work is pressing. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill over the next few days that would prohibit labeling genetically engineered (GE) foods, even denying states' rights to pass their own labeling laws. Unbelievably, given that over 90% of Americans support labeling foods containing GE ingredients, the bill is receiving broad and rapid support in the House. I urge you to call your congressional representatives to express opposition to this bill. Access to good food includes the right to know what is in it.
From the LH Store
The lavender harvest is in full swing, so now is the perfect time to order this year's crop. One of the most popular of all herbs, lavender is known for its calming, relaxing, and antiseptic properties. We love having it around the house just for its heady fragrance. Get yours today.
Want to make your summer salads even more nutritious? Sprinkle on some freshly ground organic flax seed, and get your Omega-3s along with your greens!
CSAware is good software. Since this is my last newsletter I can say it plain without feeling like I'm bragging. Try it for your CSA. You will be glad you did.
Food from the Farm: Summer Appetizer Platter
When our CSA started giving us beets and zucchini a couple of weeks ago, I made this appetizer for a special dinner and it was so pretty I have been wanting to make it again. Pretty, simple, and delicious: that is the kind of food I like best. The quantities here are entirely flexible; those I suggest will feed four people for a first course.Recipe...