The Japanese have a tradition called teikei — which means partnership, or cooperation. They have teikei farms where the consumer and the farmer meet; these are farmer’s markets of sort, but it is important for Japaense teikei that the food have a “face.”
The only time I’ve had such an opportunity was in Africa. The markets are a riot of color, textures and scents. In Mozambique, pyramids of rust orange tomatoes teeter next the bundles of tiny citrus and stacks of suspicious greens. Rice dries on ivory sacks, their World Food Programme emblems fading in the tropical sun. In Cameroon, dried fish hang from twine next to bunches of bananas — golden and sweet unlike anything Chiquita could bring to the US. In Malawi, mangoes and papaya compete for the coral crown next to piles of freshly picked tea leaves greener than any emerald.
This week we’ll break ground on 18 vegetable plots in the community garden. Some 15 will go to refugee families nearby who want a chance to work the land. The other three will be distributed to congregants and interested community members. I’m certain I’ll have a spot in there for some spring eggplant and tomatoes. The heat is quickly approaching, so we must get these seeds in the ground sooner than later. The chickens will fill the coop come October. By December, I am hoping the fruit trees will be blooming, the compost bin full, the eggs freshly delivered to the farmer’s market and the vegetables arriving in bounty.
“In a world of growing population and shrinking fertile land, CSAs, even those with relatively unskilled farmers, have proven their capacity to produce enough food for 20 families or more on each acre. As CSA farms mature, their production becomes more intensive, whether on one farm or on several associated farms. Where industrialized agriculture seems to have passed its peak of productivity, and more chemicals no longer means greater output, biological farms with community support offer long-term prospects of unlimited promise.”
While the community garden is far from a CSA, it is a step toward community agriculture. For those interested in developing a similar project, I’ve really enjoyed reading, “Sharing the Harvest.” From this book, I’ve found a “farmer’s pledge” I am going to ask all the participants to sign before taking over their plots. It’s lengthy, but in sum — we will treat every person and every bit of soil with respect, including feeding the hungry first and never using chemicals on the land.
“The goal ever receds from us. Salvation lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.” — Mahatma Gandhi
P.S. I had coffee yesterday with my friend Dave, who commented that I NEVER mention him on here and that I’m spending too much time in the garden.
With good reason. The plants don’t complain.