“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” ~ John Muir, My First Summer in Sierra
I was reading an article recently by Dan Barber, chef of New York’s pioneering farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill and was surprised to see that he had quoted one of my personal heroes, John Muir. Barber made the point that in order for the farm-to-table movement to transform the way we eat, it has to change how most of the food in this country is grown. He relates an epiphany he experienced as the result of getting to know a supplier of local, organic wheat. He found that the farmer rotated millet, oats, barley, buckwheat, mustard greens and kidney beans on the land between wheat crops to replenish soil nitrogen, build soil structure, and clean the soil of pathogens and diseases. The problem was, the farmer didn’t have a market to sell these other products, so they were just part of the cost of growing his wheat. This made Barber wonder how he might use the farmer’s byproducts to help him improve his bottom line and support the stewardship of his farm. It meant supporting the entire system that sustained the production of the wheat, because to paraphrase John Muir, nothing we do is independent of everything else.
This issue we have focused on the importance of Mississippi farmers markets. We looked at how they benefit all of us on a personal level, offering affordable, nutritious food that is available close to home; on a community level, providing markets where our farm families can sell their products and fuel the economic engines of our small towns; and on a global level, helping us reduce our carbon footprints by buying more of the food we consume from local sources. But there is also something intangible that we get from knowing where our food is grown and the people who grow it…learning their stories and making them a part of our lives. When we do that, we become a part of that system John Muir spoke of, a part of the cycle that ties us all together and makes us ever conscious of our interdependence on the air, the water, the soil, the plants, animals and people with whom we share the earth.
Mississippians are blessed with an abundance of great fresh produce available right now at the state’s more than 80 farmers markets. We invite our readers to join us in supporting Mississippi farmers by visiting a farmers market or roadside stand today.
We send a special thank you to Mississippi’s farmers for their labor that provides fresh, local and delicious food for our family tables.