Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shared Misfortune

The movement toward eating local and growing food is never more apparant than in the amount of press coverage it gets around here. Although large vegetable gardens have always been the norm around here, I think the entrance into gardening by younger, college-educated folks and, basically, the people who write for the local papers, has given it a different profile. Thanks to books by Kingsolver and Pollan and the large number of documentaries available about the evils of our industrial food system, large numbers of people have discovered home growing. Michelle Obama's kitchen garden is just a sign of the movement, not necessarily a cause. This morning the headline in the St. Cloud Times was about struggling farmers waiting for produce. To read the article, click here.

I feel sorry for anyone who began their first year of vegetable gardening this summer in Minnesota. Although I don't need anything from the Farmer's Market this year, I've still been going most Fridays, picking up some extras or things I didn't grow and want to try. It is there that I also see that I am not alone in my small yields, late harvests and short seasons. According to the article in the St. Cloud Times, the strawberry season this year lasted a week and a half, instead of its usual three to five weeks. That is a real trial for the truck farmers who depend on a robust "you-pick" business. Only one vendor had raspberries last week.

And now we're all fretting over our tomatoes. Some growers won't have them at all, and others say they'll have enough to eat but not enough for the market. My visions of large, heirloom plants loaded down with Purple Cherokees and ribbed red Rosso Sicilians, have completely evaporated. I have one small purple tomato on my counter now, and nothing that looks like the Sicilians on the vine...

Of course, it's watching the green tomatoes hanging on the brown, nearly leafless vines, that makes me fret most. What is taking so long? This is when I comfort myself at the farmer's market, where it's still "not yet" on tomatoes for the most part. The line in front of the one place that had tiny ears of sweet corn was as long as the line for the artisan baker last week, as we all wait anxiously for harvest.

And there's always the fact that we can turn our eyes to what lies ahead. The fingerling potatoes are almost ready, and a walk through the vine plants yesterday showed two bulging pumpkins and several gigantic spaghetti squash.

And I know in February the visions will return with the seed catalogues. Next year will be better!

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