First he ate some lettuces and some French beans; and then he ate some radishes;
from The Tale of Peter Rabbit
written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter
Originally published by Frederick Warne, 1902
One of my favorite foods is salad, the more veggies the better. I like all kinds of lettuce, too, except radicchio. And who even heard of arugula until a few years ago?
Like Mr. McGregor, Farmer Brown (Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type), and Mr. McGreeley (Muncha, Muncha, Muncha), I put out some vegetables in the spring. My garden is the “instant” variety. I don’t start from seeds. I don’t grow very much either, not enough to share with friends and neighbors, and certainly not enough to sell. When I run out of my small crop, I like to buy local when I can.
I compost during the year, and enrich my garden soil with transformed kitchen scraps. Although I’m sure I am not increasing my yield, I feel good about the ultimate recycling project. Just trim carrot tops and peel potatoes into a small snap-lidded bucket. Add onion skins, parsley stems, peanut shells, whatever, and empty it once in a while into the bin near the back door. Mother Nature waves her magic wand and after some sun and warm weather, voila: nutrient-rich soil!
Corporate Farming usually comes with a load of negative connotations. And the largest corporate farm in the world is not even a farm, it is a pharmaceutical company. Farm . . . Pharm, hmmm… Bayer bought Monsanto last April (2018) for $66 billion. (Part of the deal included a combined sell-off of $9 billion worth of assets to preserve competition.) Generally, even if a big corporate farm is owned by a family, the view from the top can get skewed by the bottom line. Big Corporate Farms need to make lots of money to sustain themselves.
Farms owned by companies, because of their great size and vast wealth, hold great sway in the market place and in politics. They “influence agricultural education, research, and public policy through funding initiatives and lobbying efforts.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_farming
Family Farming, sustainable agriculture, and the local food movement are seen in a much better light. I like to believe that most family farms look to the long view. After all, it takes a whole season to get from kernel to ear. And from seedling to stalk. Several years to get from pit to peach, orange, or pecan. And generations to grow a business.
The success or failure of a farm be it large or small, owned by a gigantic corporation or by a family who chose to incorporate as a small business, depends on uncontrollable variables.
Who knows what the weather will bring? Even though day by day predictions are getting eerily accurate, we’re talking about a whole growing season, months and months. Local and global prices fluctuate. I don’t know what that depends on. Consumer demand is drummed up or down by marketing and convenience.
And here we are, back to the lettuces growing in rows and rows, soaking up sun and sucking up nutrients and, well, other stuff. According to the scientists at Purdue University, active e. coli bacteria can thrive in soil around plants. Once it attaches to the plant, say Romaine lettuce, it can live there for about 40 days. So the solution to food-borne e. coli transmitted to people eating contaminated lettuce (or any other veggie) seems simple: a little patience. Wait at least 40 days before harvesting your Romaine. It sounds simple, but that long row of lettuce might not have been planted at the same time. And what about the stray dog, or cows and pigs meandering into a corn or lettuce field? And what about the machine (or person) picking the crop? What was the last thing those wheels (hands) rolled through?
Growing food is a tricky business. I choose to thank farmers, not blame them. (We’ll save those massive corporate farms for another time.) As of yesterday, the only leafy greens at my grocery store were spinach, kale, and leaf lettuce.
So, while the Caesar salad, may be a delicious memory for now, I’m adding kale and spinach to my red leaf lettuce. For me it’s the tomatoes, cukes, and yellow peppers that make the salad anyway.
-—stay curious (and try something new!)