James Pinsky: There’s no fantasy to farming – yet

Apples are an all-American success story -- each of us eats more than 19 pounds of them annually. Photo courtesy of Scott Bauer/USDA

We all know Santa Claus is real.

It’s the same with the tooth fairy and our spring-time friend, the Easter Bunny. The food fairy, however, is a flat-out lie and it’s one many a parent has told their children at the dinner table.

Parents lie, not to be cruel but because they simply don’t know. They don’t know that just beyond their daily commute lies farmland overflowing with the corn we nibble off the cob, the grain we bake into our bread and the livestock we sizzle on our grills. They don’t know that their food isn’t manufactured at will, but grown from seed to supper by Americans who fret over each leaf and hoof like many parents fuss over their child. In fact, if you knew a farmer, really knew him, you’d know his crop is every bit his child. And, like any child, the farmer needs our help to grow, adjust and succeed.

How do we help? How do we, some of us so foreign to a farm that we call soil dirt and chase it from our presence, help farmers? Can we? Should we?

Yes. Yes. One thousand times yes, and Virginia, our home, is leading the way with initiatives like its annual farm-to-table conference held this week in Weyer’s Cave. The farm-to-table conference is a collaborative effort among the commonwealth’s farm-friendly friends like the Virginia Cooperative Extension, in partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Virginia Sustainable Agriculture Research Education (SARE), Eastern Mennonite University, Virginia Division of Energy, and other community partners to help our farmers succeed not just in growing our food but in educating and empowering people to know where food comes from and how they can help.

Why? According tovirginiafarmtotable.org, the social, economic and environmental importance of farming and food is often overlooked and unappreciated by individuals and communities.

First we overlook. Then we ignore and then before we know it, what was real is gone. We must keep the reality of our food sources relevant at our dinner tables. It isn’t just so we won’t fill our children’s ears with lies like the food fairy, but so that when we garden, drive, change our oil, plant a tree, fish, swim in a stream or walk our dogs we remain ever vigilant that what we do to our soil, our water and our air matters to our farmers’ green-leafed children.

The folks here at Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District help our farmers and we can help you help farmers. Just ask us how.

The late Francis Pharcellus Church was right in 1897 when he wrote “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” yet I’ve never heard a child ask for broccoli, ripe tomatoes or even a choice USDA rib eye and I bet neither have you. Why? Because the American farmer has always made sure the reality of enough food for our nation has never needed any fantasies. Thanks to efforts like the Virginia Farm to Food Conference, I hope we never have to.

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540-465-2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org

 

 

 

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