The Austin Chronicle

Independent Food

A letter from Boggy Creek Farm

By Carol Ann Sayle, July 13, 2007, Food

Greetings Friends of the Farm,

One of these days, after we've sorted all the tomatoes, frozen those with blemishes, fed some to the chickens, and composted those too far down the road to decay, we'll get organized enough that we will realize when a national holiday falls on a market day. Not that we need to know all the "minor" holidays, like Presidents Day, for on the farm, the vegetables recognize only two "holidays," Christmas Day and New Year's Day. If those happen to fall on a market day, we move market to Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Market day must happen. It's all about the vegetables here.

But, since we are not organized, and in fact, due to our high degree of inefficiency – of which we are somewhat sourly proud – we neglected to check any known sources for the exact weekday that America would celebrate July Fourth.

It was only during Saturday's happily robust market, that the questions began to flow: "Will you be open July Fourth?" "Well, of course!" we replied, after the shock hit us that a holiday deigned to fall on vegetable day. So those Saturday folks, who already had their produce in hand, know our schedule hasn't changed. Then we began to worry about all the people who normally come on Wednesdays. Would they assume that we are raging patriots who would feel it a mandate to celebrate with burnt wienies and 'tater salad? Or maybe corpulent burgers and beansies? At a beach somewhere? And thus be closed?

Well, yes, we are definitely patriotic, but in true American spirit – the spirit of a strong work ethic, the Ford truck kind that "built America" – we believe that our mission is to feed the citizens righteously independent food, especially on a holiday when so many folks are cooking at home. A great Fourth of July for us is greeting the people who thrive on our produce! For a well-nourished citizenry is a free, strong, and secure nation.

It makes basic sense that we will never have true "homeland security" if we don't eat from the land close to us. How will we be truly nourished, if our communities are wolfing down contaminated, dead slop from other countries in the name of globalization? In the name of cheap food? Produced not by a neighbor, but by folks making slave wages, far away, out of sight. Brought here on petro-fueled ships. Sold by impersonal corporations. Food without accountability. Food that we should fear ingesting.

Eventually, with enough of that cheap gruel, we will no longer have the strength to cultivate our own fields, and we will not be independent in the most basic way, without an American supply of food.

Independent food – food with a "face" behind it – is local food, produced in or near the community it serves. Much of the produce we raise on our farm in Austin travels no more than 200 feet from plant to market table, on the energy of our feet. True, produce from our second farm in Gause travels 75 miles from field to farm stand. But at least it travels in a Ford truck, driven by Larry, the farmer, his helpers sitting at his side. Our farmhands make decent pay and are not hidden from our customers' view.

So we'll celebrate July Fourth for sure and have a swell time with those who can break away from the beach to come for fresh red tomatoes and everything else needed to grow strong kids, keep old folks healthy, make bodies energetic and minds clear. Adequately nourished, so that we all can be grateful for the country we've created and strive to make it better, cleaner, kinder, safer – akin to the image that dwells in our imaginations and in our hearts.

Happy birthday, America. Happy birthday to all of us. end story

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