This I Believe

Darla - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on July 4, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in potatoes and carrots in the winter, and fresh greens in the spring. I believe in melons and sweet corn in the summer. In the fall, I believe in apples and pears. I believe that humbly submitting to the cycles of nature as I make food choices brings me into a grateful and healthy relationship with the earth that sustains me.

When I visit the farmer’s market in my community, I meet the people who grow and produce my food. They chat with me, and can tell me the difference between the varieties of white, orange, and maroon-colored carrots they sell, or the variation in flavor and richness between chicken and duck eggs.

The produce I see as I walk among the booths looks different than the gleaming piles of perfectly-shaped fruit at the supermarket, but it seems so much more authentic. I pick up an small apple, slightly misshapen by grocery store standards, with speckled, yellow skin. Its few brown marks tell its story, and I know that this fruit wasn’t manufactured, perfected, or polished. This, I think to myself, is a real apple.

Lucky to live in an area where citrus is seasonally abundant, I stroll by a vendor’s box that boasts a cheerful, sunny pile of free lemons. They vary in size, all bumps and knobs. Smudged with dirt, and still attached to spiny stems and leaves, they remind me that not so long ago, they were attached to a tree. They came from the soil.

Of course, moving toward incorporating locally grown food into my diet means sacrificing a certain sense of entitlement. I’m used to having a dazzling array of exotic food choices available to me. When I shop at a supermarket, I can have nearly any food I want on demand: strawberries in January, mangoes flown in from overseas, peaches and asparagus in the dead of winter. But eating locally-produced food might mean savoring root vegetables during the winter and waiting until spring or summer for my first taste of sugar snap peas or blueberries. It means giving up the idea that this planet is my servant, and that I’m here to get whatever I want out of it, even if that means trampling upon its natural cycles and limitations.

So, do I refuse to eat bananas because they are shipped in from the tropics? No, not necessarily. Have I eaten bagged spinach salad in winter? Sure. Have I stopped shopping at the supermarket entirely? No. But I am shifting toward seeing myself as an inhabiter of the earth rather than a master. I am trying, whenever possible, to adjust my lifestyle to fit what our environment needs, rather than forcing it to feed my every desire. The prevailing cultural mindset of instant gratification is an attitude I would be happy to shake off – for myself, for local producers, and for Mother Nature. I figure, I owe her one.