As revolutions go, the local foods movement is relatively well-behaved and filled with activists who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Its goal is ambitious: to get people to switch their allegiance from farm products shipped thousands of miles at an unsustainable carbon cost, to locally-grown and raised foods. If enough of us do this, the reasoning goes, we will not only have fresher, healthier foods to eat, we will develop community resilience that can withstand disruptions in the food supply chain many foresee as inevitable as the climate changes.
In Palm Beach Country where I live, the movement is embryonic compared to, say, the San Francisco Bay Area or most of the state of Vermont. But on a sunny Saturday at Gray Mockingbird Community Garden, with the lively sounds of the Lake Worth High School Steel Drum Band making my feet tingle, it was possible to dream big. The occasion was Local Foods/Local Gardens and I was on hand with partners, Brian Kirsch of Gray Mockingbird Gardens, Mary Jo Aagerstoun of EcoArt South Florida, and my spouse, Howard, to talk up and sell tickets to a special screening of Symphony of the Soil, a documentary by award-winning filmmaker and Palm Beach County native, Deborah Koons Garcia, November 17 at the Muvico Parisian in City Place, West Palm Beach. The film makes a powerful connection between reclaiming our soil (and farms) from Big Ag and food security for all of us.
The timing could not be better. In about a year, Solid Waste Authority which has been providing free compost to local backyard and community gardens in Palm Beach County, will phase out of this service. The screening, and a Q&A with the filmmaker and other local soil and gardening experts, is intended to help launch a conversation with all parties concerned on how to address our composting needs in the future.
When I wasn’t in the Gray Mockingbird booth, I was schmoozing with people like Robert and Paula Farriss of Farriss Farm who offer free-range eggs that taste like eggs, and 100% grass-fed, pastured livestock. The term ‘pastured’ denotes animals that have been raised humanely, without hormones and antibiotics because, simply, they do not need them to thrive. It is encouraging to know that there is a burgeoning market for products like this, for both health and ethical reasons. I’m not likely to be a convert to mammal meat (though I have recently sampled pastured duck), but I do come away from conversations like this with a better understanding of why large herbivores are necessary for sustainable agriculture.
I had a good chat with John Zahina-Ramos of Just One Backyard about the challenge of getting the foodservice industry, restaurants included, to understand how composting their vegetable scraps could actually impact their operating budgets. John is an ecologist and makes a convincing case for a more holistic way of agriculture. JoJo Milano of Goodness Gracious Acres was also there, promoting her goat-milk based soaps. Currently, unpasteurized goat’s milk cannot be sold as food for human consumption, a situation that I hope will change. Joanna Aiken, Community Service Coordinator of Solid Waste Authority, also stopped by the Symphony of the Soil table and I feel confident we’ll work together well on a composting solution. I bought some honey sticks from the Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association booth (yum!), and met Facebook friend, Susan Lerner of the Rare Fruits Council.
A fun morning invested in a cause I am passionate about. Let the revolution spread!
(Photo credits: Leonard D. Bryant, 2013)