Thursday, March 12, 2009

Green Is Good

Hat tip to Mr. Madoff and Gordon Gecko for the inspiration for this week's post title. I just decided to put a different spin on it...I hope the financial jack-offs that have destroyed our system don't mind. Or as Jon Stewart would say to them "F**k You!".

I have a confession to make fellow Cleveland Liberal Drinkers, not only am I a liberal...I'm one of those tree-huggin kind. Environmentalist whacko member of the NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife? Check. Granola for breakfast? Check. Community gardener? Check. And finally... Birkenstock wearer? Check. What? They're reaaallly comfortable and have cork soles which are a renewable resource! Sheesh!

Anyway, my love of the green life really took hold when I started gardening for the first time in my life, the year Mr. Drinking Liberally and I decided to buy a house and take root ourselves. Prior to, I lived in apartments for 8 years and there wasn't a houseplant that had a prayer if I got my mitts on it. But, then I inherited this little plot of land in front of my house. I had never mowed a lawn in all my years either and wasn't about to start that lame never-ending exercise, so I made my whole front yard nothing but garden. Much to my neighbors' chagrin I suppose but they're used to it now.

My life changing epiphany occurred that first spring when I glimpsed the plump pointy tops of the tulips and daffodils I had planted the previous fall poking out of the soil in my garden....'It's ALIVE!' I exclaimed. I felt like God. And that's huge for an ex-Catholic. I created life...well, Gales Garden Center helped a little bit. But I stuck them in the ground, fed them yummy organic fertilizer and mulched the little darlings so they'd burst forth and join nature in all it's glory.

Two years after my Frankensteinesque epiphany over tulips and daffodils, I joined a community garden. I read every book I could find on the subject of gardening, subscribed to magazines, started growing my own food and became a pathetic slave to the indescribably delicious taste of the first ripe homegrown heirloom beefsteak tomato from my own plant. Today, I'm like Gollum and his elusive ring with that first ripe's sooo precious sliced thinly and layed lovingly upon lightly toasted white bread with a thin layer of real mayo, salt and pepper. Mr. DL can't come near me when I make my first tomato sandwich of the summer or he'll lose a digit.

I guess what I'm trying to accomplish with my tempting anecdote is to convince all of you out there in CDL Land to grow your own food or if you're not able to, at least buy your vegetables at a local CSA or farmers market.

Growing your own has a different meaning these days. It doesn't mean 15-25 in the Big House but access to affordable healthy food that didn't need to travel 1000 miles on fossil fuels or was harvested by slave labor. Buying local isn't 'protectionist', it's smart. By supporting small local and urban farming, you not only reduce the amount of fossil fuels the industry uses but you help create jobs in your own neighborhood and a vibrant local economy.

If every country grew their own food to feed their own populations, there would be no for need huge factory farms here in America that pollute our air, water and soil. Or trade laws in other countries that force poor farmers to grow commodity crops instead of food their people desperately need. There is a wonderful organization called Oxfam that helps people third world countries do just that....unfortunately those places have to fight the same big companies like ADM, Dow and Monsanto that we do. The best way to counter Big Ag is to get involved in the local food movement.

The local food movement here in Cleveland is vibrant and growing. We have over 200 community gardens around the city. Urban farms are popping up everywhere and the Cleveland City Council even passed an ordinance making it easier for folks to keep chickens and bees. Since the foreclosure madness swept North East Ohio, municipalities are razing abandoned condemned houses and letting the land be used as gardens and small farms. An empty abandoned lot can become a productive local resource with some raised beds...or a beautiful orchard. Nothing is impossible because we have the land and imagination to remake our landscape. We have the opportunity to feed each other in every aspect..mind, body and soul.

Food and nature are themes in our lives that have the singular ability to bring people together and create lasting bonds. All of us have a favorite memory of meals with loved ones or taking refuge in the shade of a tree on a hot summer day. We remember picking stawberries at a local farm as children or having to weed to get an allowance. Some of us may have tended vegetable gardens with our parents or grandparents and remember that time we shared with fondness.

For those of us who love to garden, there is nothing more Zen than weeding early in the morning on a summer day before the wasps and bees wake up to get in our way...sitting still on occasion so as not to scare the robin less than two feet from you who is picking a bug from the soil you've just turned over; watching his/her careful deliberation in finding the bug, amazed in the trust they have you won't harm them or the risk they're taking to get food for their young.

Maybe I'm romanticizing the work of gardening a is hard, I've been laid up on the couch or a day or two after spreading 2 yards of humus on the community garden. I've gotten the dreaded 'wore the wrong t-shirt' sunburns that don't fade until six months later. Running a farm in the city has to have it's challenges as well.

But, what little pain there is in growing your own food, running an urban farm or searching out local resources we experience pales in comparison to the damage relying on Big Agriculture for food, something so essential to our survival, wreaks on our society as a whole.

So Cleveland DL'ers...this summer, think about finding a spot to grow your own or at least finding a connection to some great local food. Green is good.

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