My daughter and I are now in the Midwest visiting her grandparents, so all I was able to manage today was some more locally made bread for breakfast. I had intended to put some local organic berry jam on it, but when I cracked open the jar there was mold on top. So much for that. It's hard to lose even a little when you don't have that many options to begin with.
We made a day trip to Grant's Farm today (a sort of historical site/game park/family attraction outside St. Louis), and the highway goes straight through southern Illinois farmland. Having lived most of my life in the Ohio River valley and south-central Indiana, this is the landscape that feels like "home" to me. The open, gently rolling fields standing under a big sky, planted in corn, soybeans, or wheat, or serving as cattle pasture, punctuated by large single trees or little stands of forest, the clusters of farmhouses and outbuildings; seeing these vistas provokes a pleasurable nostalgia, a return to the backdrop for trips to my own grandparents and, later, my universities. It's harvest time now, and the fields are particularly attractive, glowing orange and tawny gold in the setting sun, the newly shorn rows of corn stubble proclaiming 'the human hand has been here.'
However, now that I'm invested in local and sustainable food, I'm reading other elements in these scenes, seeing the acres of monoculture and of crops that may be used for fuel instead of food; watching the huge combines and trucks that have become the symbol of industrialized, oil-driven agriculture; seeing the brown, dust-laden clouds carrying away vital topsoil to pollute our waterways and choke our oceans.
I think about the Eat Local Challenge and wonder what it would mean to these farmers if we were able to turn the agricultural system upside down; what would the fields look like then? Would they be unfamiliar; would they be beautiful? What would happen to the machines they've paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy? Would the grain silos be empty? Is it possible some of them might return to using the magnificent draft horses we saw today for their original purpose? I wish I knew, and I hope we'll see the day when a reimagined landscape is not only possible, but profitable, and sustainable.
Angela Jordan is a stay-at-home mom, web designer, and local food blogger living in Mobile AL.