I had the pleasure and the privilege of visiting the White House garden early this year—a longtime pal is a chef there—and it got me thinking: How can we turn powerful imagery into delicious, real life? How can this tiny plot, which produced a thousand pounds of food in its first short season, really help put good food on American tables every day?
An answer came to me through the controversy brewing in and around Santa Rosa. Two groups are very publicly working to develop farm market buildings. One has toiled away for a decade to create something unique in Railroad Square; the other arrived, checkbook in hand, hoping to quickly build on the local fairgrounds. The talk is that there won't be enough top-quality vendors to fill all of the stalls.
I say, let's grow us some farmers! As the White House and school gardens all over the U.S. show, we can inspire and engage, we can grow, gather, cook and feed. Now all we need is to invest some time and cash in showing how those productive plots of earth can be organized for learning something beyond the precious lessons of taste and science, nutrition and foodways. We need to teach kids how simple methods developed worldwide over many millennia can organize their efforts into profitable, small farming. And the time is now.
Small farms, many minority owned, are one part of our pained economy that seems to be (forgive me) growing. And why not? What's better or more valuable than fresh, delicious food? In a period of significant recalibration (read: the phony, bloated economy finally popped and we're back to reality), we tend to refocus on the blessed basics. After the '87 crash, everyone wanted roast chicken and mashed potatoes. After 9-11, everyone wanted sushi to feel clean, clear and strong. Now, in the latter skid of the Great Recession, we want our own gardens, our own farms, our own farmers.
So let's take the lead from Mrs. Obama's garden and carry it further still. Just as she's kicked off her anti-obesity fight from between those leafy greens, so too can we promote the kind of hard work and good results that local family farming can dish up.
Come to a spring garden celebration at Guerneville School on Saturday, May 15, with farmers Ariel Dillon, Jeff Russell and Nathan Boone, chef Mateo Granados, Redwood Hill Farms cheese tasting and food from Boon. 12:30pm to 2:30pm. 14630 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville. $5&–$15. 707.869.2864.