The Farming Cycle

Happy Harvest Day!!!

Today we harvested our first kale, basil and lettuce of the season! Maybe I’m biased, but I’ve never  seen such beautiful basil and kale so crisp. It’s such a wonderful feeling to harvest crops and send them off into kitchens after seeing the growth each day that started from just a single seed. And for us at St. Olaf,  that basil or kale will mostly likely end up back in our fields, full cycle, as compost for our future crops. And really, that’s how it should be, isn’t it?

Everything in the world is based on cycles. Water cycles, energy cycles, seasonal cycles, planetary cycles, life cycles… all these cycles are what keep life going. So why have we grown so far away from our food cycle? Why do we as humans want so little interaction with our food? And why can’t we be integrated into the cycle anymore?

As time has passed, and technology and science have evolved and improved, humans have found ways to remove themselves from so much that used to be an integrated part our daily existence. Just look at the food industry today. I would guess that a very small percentage of Americans can honestly say that they play an active role in their food production and growth. Instead, most rely on large industrial farms, high-tech machinery, food processing plants, and other people to grow, produce, and prepare their food. There is no longer an intimate cycle between humans and their food. We no longer are present for the birth of the cycle; we don’t plant the seeds, water them, nurture them. Without these starting moments, we lose that close connection and unity that we can have our food. Cooking our food lacks cultural and personal meaning. It’s a chore rather than an awaited ritual. Our food holds little value; we waste it and throw it away, disregarding the nourishment that it can offer our soil after we’ve tossed it aside as food scrap. Without that first planting step in the cycle, it doesn’t occur to us to consider the value of composting since it doesn’t directly pertain to us, but rather our soil. It’s impossible to really think on the full scale of the cycle when we are no longer an integrated member of it.

While forward-thinking technology and innovations clearly have their value and benefits in this world, they have their downfalls as well…and our food system is the perfect example for this paradoxical situation we face. The improvements to our food system have been pretty remarkable in regards to the number of people who have been the fed, and the variety and quantity of crops that have been grown.  Yet all this has been done at a mighty high price for the health and sustainability of our well-being and environment. If everyone could take a step back and remember our roots as farmers and keepers of the land, I think there could be some valuable lessons learned…or rather “relearned.” While I know it’s not possible for everyone to grow their own food and be there for every step of their food’s cycle, we can strive to be more present. Be there for one part of it and make an effort to learn and become better informed about the steps for which you are absent. You’ll realize, just like I do every morning on the farm, how many amazing moments you’ve been missing out on and beauty that lies in the science of our food.

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