Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Conversation with Kingsolver

Recorded at the CTrib

I've not been able to finish Plenty or Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, the two recent eating local books. Plenty, the 100 mile couple's book, is clever, engaging, well written, but there's just no there, there. They set out to eat within their parameters and they do it. Any notable problems like the mouse poop seem incidental. So, while it's fun to read in spurts, it's not the kinda book that's making me wanna finish. Barbara Kingsolver is a bit of a polemicist, more strident, not as cool as Martha Bayne notes. Me, I appreciate the litany of facts, arguments, statistics, the change the world idealism of Kingsolver. More importantly, while her venture is at once more unreasonable, who has a farm to return to, her endevor is more realistic. She, as I, believes that eating local is not a hobby, nor an exotic quest like climbing an Himalayan. She's taken to the road to spread the message, and the Chicago Tribune compiles some of her message from a recent talk.

This were my favorite parts:
Q. What can we do up north where we have such a short growing season?

A. Sustainable diversified farms on the outskirts of cities are the fastest growing sector of our agriculture economy. I'm amazed what these food growers are figuring out in terms of season extension. I personally have friends in Western Massachusetts and Vermont who are growing tomatoes in high tunnels -- kind of simple, inexpensive greenhouses -- where you stretch fabric over hoops and it's big enough you can even get a tractor in there -- kind of like small-scale farming in a greenhouse.

We have four months of very cold winter where I live. And we eat beautifully. You just get over the bananas. You get over the January tomatoes. Start thinking about what you have. I'm personally a huge fan of winter squash. They're loaded with beta carotene and there are so many things you can do with them and you can have them all winter.

Q. What is the most important lesson you learned from living locally?

A. [It] was a very deliberate paradigm shift. We stopped asking, "What do I want right now?" and said, "What do we have? What's abundant? What's tasty and delicious right now?" That's what we'll have. It was really for us an exercise in gratitude and because of that it was permanent. We'll never go back.

We had so much more than we imagined. Winter in many ways was easier than summer. We'd made big huge pots of tomato sauce, for example, and froze them and so when winter came, so much of the work was already done. Anyone with a freezer can buy extra foods when they're in season and toss them in there for winter. They'll still be local in February.

With a little bit of extra money invested in our own food economy, we're keeping great faith in the people around our town. We're recycling that money into our own school districts, communities and we're also improving our own food security: If you pay a little extra to our local farmers, we're helping to ensure they'll still be there for us next year.

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