I came to Italy with this Romantic Notion that things were so much better over here in terms of people appreciating their food source, living closer to the seasons, and having an integral relationship with the land. I came over to discover more about that magic, how I could find it and understand the essence of it - as a model for describing an optimistic ideal for living well.
Certainly in this little valley where I am staying, life is lived close to the land and in tight relationship with the earth and her gifts. I experience awe and wonder when I try to fathom that people have been living this way right here - as in other valleys like it throughout the world, for over 2000 years, giving and taking from these slopes that have provided for so long. There are so many medicinal plants here, so many edible wild foods, a landscape and climate with mineral-rich earth and water that keep this bioregion alive and flourishing that I am humbled to take it all in.
The flip side has been becoming aware of how our exported lifestyle is impacting life here in this region that has flourished on growing and raising foods that are optimum to this climate and land for so long. The Walmart, Costco and giant Supermarket-ification of our pro-growth lifestyle has made its way here as well, and small producers are struggling and fighting their way to stay at it - if not giving it up all together.
There is something real we can all do, in every bioregion that we live in, to make a little difference in a backwards direction as a rebellion - against dependence on giant agribuisiness and the loss of the individual voice.
It is to take a portion of our time and grocery dollars, and spend them directly with a grower or farmer or producer of food where we live. We need to act - as if the weekly farmers’ market is our temporary grocery store for as many months as we can, and buy our food directly from the source - starting now. As lovely as the foods look, as similar as what’s laid out might look from table to table (they are growing in the same region on the same timetable, after all) - those farmers are not there for fun and to support the carnival of a pleasant weekend morning.
They are there to earn a living because they are passionate about what they are doing, and keenly invested in the piece of land that they work and or animals they raise, to bring food to tables. They can’t do what they’re doing because we hope that they’ll be there next week or month or year, when we’re finally ready to do more than look.
They can’t live on smiles and free samples.
They depend on us to thank them for what they’re doing - selling the riches of the earth and of their hard work - by buying from them and bringing it to our tables, whether it is vegetables, meats, hand-harvested fish, cheeses, eggs, fruit, herbs, wild rice, or plants.
If we want to see any fraction of this kind of life survive - that is, the kind of life that might keep us alive if Walmart/Costco/SuperGrocery closes - then we need to participate in it, in our kitchens, and take part in a small way with the farmers, in the ancient cycle of living in accordance with the earth and her rhythms. The option and freedom is given to us right now by the effort of a small farmer near you, and we have a responsibility to receive, no matter where we live.
Dedicated to Brent Zimmerman of Valle di Mezzo, Mike Noreen of Burning River Farm, all the farmers at Stone’s Throw and Loon Organics, Shepherd’s Way Farm and at Singing Hills Goat Dairy.