One day, I came across a quote from J.R.R. Tolkein, author of The Lord of the Rings, he wrote a letter to a friend, from which I will quote a passage. "Family life must have been different in the days when a family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps was why they saw nymphs in the fountain and dryads in the wood- - they were not mistaken for there was a sense real (not metaphorical) connections between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air and later corn, and later still bread, really was in them. We of course who live on a standardized international diet are artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours."
This passage from a letter supported my way of thinking concerning the power of nutritious food grown in local soil. Lets face it. We live in a world where you can walk into any chain grocery store and purchase just about anything your heart wants or bank account supports. The food is pretty, perfect and packaged meticulously. It is truly a wonder to behold. If one thinks about it long enough, you will ask yourself how many miles and how many trucks did it take to get this food to the store? Who, what, when, and where was this food grown? Are you attached to this food? Do you have a relationship with the farmer who grew it? Do you now the foods details? Does the food inspire you? We have inherited a world that moves so fast and efficient that our attachment to the local culture of food is not even a thought.
Most of human history revolved around food, which is the essence of culture. The local food grown in native soils which was cultivated by local people, which nourished towns, villages, and cities for millennia, have for all practical purposes have disappeared. In the last 100 years, local small family farms were chased off the land. There is no room for a diversified farm. Monoculture farming is the new economic model. Farmers in the 1970s were told by the U.S. government to get big, or get out. Corporate farming took over. Their plan is to grow and sell GMO sugar beet, canola, corn, cotton, and soybean to the world market. The game is all about economy of scale. Every year, fewer and fewer, farmers can afford to play the game.
Something unexpected is happening. There is a local food movement. Many people are voting with their feet and dollars. They want more choice when it comes to their food. There are many people starting up small family farms to support this new need. It will be interesting to see which agricultural movement will win in the battlefield of ideas. I, myself, am betting on the resurrection of the small family farm. It has so much to offer our local communities. It won't be easy. There are many challenges.
Tolkein was on to something with this passage. Tolkein was a very sensitive, creative, and intelligent man. He was no ivory tower intellectual, he knew human nature. He knew the horrors of war, in the blood soaked trenches of World War I, but he also heard over the great noise, of urban English cities, the quiet truths of the Shire and Hobbits, which he gifted the world. Tolkein knew we could and should find our way back to a local food culture.
You see, when you buy local, that money stays local. When you eat food grown in your native soil, something special happens. The strength of your local land becomes yours. You will take pride in your local landscape and farmer. Tolkein, knew this much.
Support your local small farmers, root yourself back into your native soil, and lets bring the strength of the hills back to our communities.