I walked into the kitchen of a friend I had met in the Environmental Awareness Club at the University of Central Missouri. The first thing I noticed was the hanging herbs and the pungent smells.
“What is that?” I’m sure I asked my friend.
She replied that her and her husband were making rice with fresh ginger and eggplant. “Wanna help?” she asked.
Her cabinets were opened so she could have quick access to her dried herbs and her countertop was filled with dishes as they chose to cook every meal at home. She had me scrape some ginger root on a textured plate, and then fresh garlic that was still in the bulb and cut fresh eggplant to throw in a skillet. The whole time I was embarrassed to tell her I had no idea what I was doing, and frankly all of the smells of the hanging herbs and fresh food was overwhelming my senses. Not to mention I hadn’t ever seen a piece of fresh garlic or ginger.
I have found that for others, their food awakening was from developing an intolerance to gluten or dairy, or seeing the way an animal is treated in a stock yard, but that day all I had to do was smell, see and then finally taste, and my life changed forever. It was that day I realized I had been lost and confused when it came to what I was eating, and even environmental issues I was passionate about. Where was my food from? Who made it? What was in it? How did it affect me? All of these questions, I had never asked before.
Conservation of wildlife and recycling were my mantras, but I had never thought about how my food played a role. Not to mention, I didn’t know food could taste so good made right in your home. At the time, I was still cooking hamburger helper and then praising the “Lord” for Wendy’s when I was hungry after a meeting that ran late. I grew up on hot dogs and macaroni and cheese (sorry mom), and grabbed oatmeal cream pies freely from my snack drawer.
I was taught to recycle and respect wildlife, but never to question where the food right in front of my face was coming from. When I finally made the connection between food and my overall health as well as that of my environment, it was like the clouds opened up, and I began to seek out more hidden or covered up truths about food.
Today, some four-point-five years later, my husband and I are interning at Across the Creek Farm (pasture-raised and GMO-free chicken), we live next to Tri Cycle Farm, I’ve attended farming workshops around the country, including one last Friday at Prater Farms (pasture-raised pork products) in Cedarville, Ark., and I even have my own garlic press, rice cooker, tea pot and a host of other kitchen utensils I had never even heard of before that fateful day. And best of all, I attend meetings like the one held Monday by the Fayetteville Forward Food Action Group, and listen to all of the amazing ideas that could be the future of the food system in Fayetteville.
The transition to good foods is by no means easy, and is still going, but it has been exciting, rewarding and beneficial to all involved, and I imagine it will be the same in Fayetteville.
When someone is awakened to just paying attention to their food, it’s only a matter of time before they want to take an active role in what they eat. And on Monday, I saw Mayor Lioneld Jordan diligently take notes and get bright-eyed as the group discussed urban agriculture, and if our next mayor is Dan Coody, I’ve been to one of his organic food parties and the food was amazing, fresh and mainly local.
Maybe this year during October — or Fayetteville Food Security Awareness Month — discussion will lead to the awakening of Fayetteville to its food, and then the counties, and then the region. Maybe the smells and tastes of locally grown food in a Fayetteville City Council boardroom will be the beginning of our collective food awakening.
Some ideas that came from Monday night’s meeting of the Fayetteville Forward Food Action Group:
- Design a urban ag. policy that can be a model throughout the country.
- Make space requirements of an animal priority when developing city regulations.
- Start a local processor for meats grown by local farmers.
- Allow growing and selling on the same piece of property.
- Develop a sheparding program where animals move from a central location to city buildings/schools for lawn maintenance.
- Have programs that help navigate the business-local farmer gap.
- Set benchmark goals for food served at city institutions. Like: by 2015, 20 percent of food served in city buildings will be local foods.
- Allow local schools to have their own chickens for educational and food purposes.