It’s been going on a long time. My interest in local food began at a young age. In fact, when I was growing up in the late 50’s and 60’s, that is what we ate. My father had a large garden that provided almost all the produce we ate except for lemons and onions, the big round kind anyway. We always had multiplying onions in the winter and spring. We might buy a potato every now and then at the store when we had run out of ours. If there was not enough, out of our garden, of things like purple hull peas and corn, there were farms around the area where you could pick your own or buy what they had picked. We had two large chest freezers. One was for vegetables. The other was for catfish. There was a little meat in there that did come from the grocery store. But they cut their own meat and I suspect it was fairly local. We went to a local pork butcher for all our pork items. His meat was very local. Mostly, we ate catfish. My father fished regularly. The first meat any baby in the family ate was catfish from local streams or lakes. We lived in a small town but had a large yard.
Into this agrarian scene came the young woman who would later become my sister-in-law. She brought with her the little pamphlet like Organic Gardening magazines of the mid-sixties. She wanted to discuss it with my father who was a strong believer in “progress.” And by this I mean any chemical or method which made his garden more productive, at least in his eyes. He was not interested in going back to the old days and was dismissive of her ideas. But she pressed on and would bring it up again and again and through that, I learned a lot about organic gardening at about the age of 9. It all made pretty good sense to me, but I was eating all that produce that my dad was growing so I did not say a lot about it. There were many loud discussions about the merits of manure and ammonium nitrate. She extolled Ruth Stout and heavy mulching, my father harumphed. It was entertaining and educational.
When I had my own yard and space to garden, organic was the way that seemed right to me. That was in the very late 70’s and early 80’s. What I grew in my small square foot garden plots was all done organically and fairly successfully, just not in large enough quantities to really feed us. My daughter could scarf up all the available broccoli in a morning of playing in the backyard. That went on for many years. We grew a little bit and picked over the meager organic offerings at the store. There weren’t a lot of options.
Then in 2001, we moved to Covington, GA, and about a year later discovered that we had arrived in some sort of organic food mecca. Some very forward looking folks began an enterprise called, “The Square Market” because of its nearness to the downtown square. It was wonderful. There were many organic farmers right in our own little neck of the woods who would bring their produce in every Friday night during the growing season and along with local artisans and musicians, it was a grand time. At first many people came out. They enjoyed visiting with their neighbors and friends, they listened to the local musicians, but they did not buy much. The shock of paying the real cost of organic produce was a little too much for them. We went every week and always bought something. The food was wonderful and the people were fun. It felt like investing in the community. But most people did not feel that way. In the third year, the time was changed from Friday night to Saturday morning. Somehow, it became less friendly. Not as many people came and it died away. I sought out the growers to get produce from their farms, but negotiating that was sometimes tricky. They were selling mainly to markets and restaurants in Atlanta where people were more willing to pay the higher prices that they needed to support their efforts.
It was too far for us to drive into town, but then, miraculously, with me begging some of the local farmers for some kind of local outlet for good organic, local produce, Mary Denton started her CSA. I did myself proud by forgetting to go pick mine up the first day until she called me. But I’ve been faithful ever since. Now she brings it to me, because my house is the pick-up spot for the people in town. We are just about to finish the third growing season of her CSA. It has been wonderful. She not only brings us things that she grows, but adds in some lovely other goodies from other farms, like apples, local grown and ground grits, local cheese and many other fun items that we are not able to get here.
I started concentrating more on my vegetable beds in the back. We also had blackberry canes and blueberry bushes. We added a fig tree and two pear trees. About a year and a half ago after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, we got chickens and began to seriously consider eating only locally grown vegetables and meats. I began looking for more local options and it turns out they were there. And more are coming all the time.
Then in January of this year, my doctor said that I had Type II diabetes and that if I would just lose weight, I would not have to worry about it. I made up my mind that that was what I had to do. Part 2 will let you in on how that is going.