When I was growing up as a pre-teen during the 1950’s in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, one of my chores was to keep our vegetable garden weeded. I hated it. I didn’t like having to get down on my knees to weed. My pants got dirty and wet; and I had to stick my hands into the dirt to get at some of the weeds. Plus I wanted to play.
Rows of vegetables were not too bad. What I really hated was the strawberry patch. No rows, and runners all over the place. To complicate the matter, at least in my mind, I was told that I could not go and play until the job was done. How unfair!
Fast forward to the 1980’s when we acquired our own piece of land and I had to put in a garden to satisfy our family of five. That same dirt became our gold mine. Now these hands were plunged willingly into that soil that over several summers was enriched and nourished, thanks to the local farmers and a sound organic approach.
I soon came to learn what really goes on under the surface. This soil, this dirt, was very much a living thing. I was amazed to find out just how much beneficial bacteria and other living organisms existed just below the surface. With careful tending we were rewarded with its bounty. This is my dirt, my earth.
Now look what is happening to this giver of abundance. It is being ravaged through the use of chemicals thanks to big chemical producing companies and agribusiness that virtually have a strangle hold on the farmers. They rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and animal drugs. In agribusiness, the thrust is getting the highest possible yields and profits. Nutrient content and flavour take second place. Their bottom line is what is being taken care of, not the consumer. The damage that is being done will take decades to reverse, if it can be at all. The damage is not just to the earth, but also to the product that is grown in it, and ultimately to ourselves. This was my dirt, my earth. The drive is to mass production, not on a wholesome and nourishing product. Thank heavens, not all countries have adopted this approach, for the most part in Europe and Asia.
The USDA fails to acknowledge that organically grown fruits and vegetables contain more nutritional value and are safer than those grown on mass, despite independent research that has proven otherwise. One can only wonder just how deep a strangle hold agribusiness has on the powers that be.
Despite all this, there are some things that we as consumers can do. Many large grocery chains are now carrying organic products, if your local grocer is not, ask him why. If he is not, shop elsewhere. With stronger competition, prices for organics have come down. Get to know your local farmers and frequent farmers markets. At the political level, write your member of parliament or congressman, that still is a powerful tool.
It seems to me that with the rising cost of health care, it only makes sense to do our part and eat smart. It is going to take generations maybe centuries to turn this plundering of the earth around. This is still my dirt, our earth.