Because Children Don't Wait. They Grow Up.Tue 13 Dec 2011
Story by Pattie Baker
I trotted outside yet again yesterday, with a colander under one arm and a pair of scissors in my hand. I picked food for my family, as I have been doing for ten years now, since my daughters were six and one years old.
On September 12, 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks on the United States, I went to my local supermarket to stock up on food supplies "just in case," and it occurred to me, right there in aisle eight, that if terrorists "hit" our national food supply, frankly, we were all pretty much doomed. I honestly did not know how I would provide for my children, and I decided that, if nothing else in this chaotic world, I would learn how to grow food. Now, they are 16 and 11 years old, and they have grown up on food from their backyard. And side yard. And front yard.
Wait, let me back up. At first I waited for our government to encourage Americans to take the simple step of planting a seed to increase personal and national security, such as in Victory Garden days. I waited for the schools to jump on board. I waited for my neighborhood to rally around collective self-preservation. I'd still be waiting today if waiting was my only choice, but it wasn't.
By January of 2002, I stopped waiting.
I started our home garden. I joined a CSA for a weekly farm box delivery. I started going to farmers markets. I visited small, local, organic farms. I changed the focus of my writing business to concentrate on issues relating to environmental, economic, and social sustainability and wrote articles for various publications as well as a blog named FoodShed Planet. I learned basic knowledge that has skipped not one but two generations, and the shocking information about what has gone wrong with our food system in just my lifetime. I tried to change my children's school lunch offerings, and then opted out when I saw that change would be long and slow and that my time (a non-renewable resource) would be more constructively spent elsewhere. I got involved and was appointed to lead the sustainability commission when my community became the newest city in the United States three years ago. I helped start or rejuvenate a number of community gardens specifically to feed those in need of food, community and knowledge. And finally, I wrote a book to share what I've learned, titled Food for My Daughters: what one mom did when the towers fell (and what you can do, too), which was released just two weeks before the ten-year anniversary of 9/11.
Most importantly, I raised my daughters on good, clean, healthy food and the knowledge that we, as individuals, can take actions that make a difference. And now, I offer other parents this advice:
1. Vote with your dollar. Just say no to processed foods that contain additives you don't want in your diet, or whose labels are not clear. Buy real, whole, non-toxic foods.
2. Get involved. Read about food labeling issues. Write letters to your government representatives. Do research. Talk to friends and neighbors. Find out everything you can so that you can make informed decisions, and help change the system. Your voice and choice may be the tipping point.
3. Support local farmers whose growing philosophy you share, plus grow your own food. Grow awareness. Grow community. Grow knowledge. Grow as a parent, and as a person. Grow the security for our future by instilling these habits in your children.
Yes, we need people to work on systemic change. However, there are many small and seemingly inconsequential actions we can take that don't require us as parents to seek permission from governments or school administrators to do what we know in our hearts is the right thing for our children. I, for one, am glad I stopped waiting. Because children don't wait. They grow up.
About the author: Pattie Baker is a professional writer specializing in sustainability and a volunteer urban farmer who grows food, knowledge, and community for those in need. She blogs at www.foodshedplanet.com and was recently profiled in the November 2011 issue of O: The Oprah Magazine (page 165, "The Farmer"). A native New Yorker, she lives in metro Atlanta with her husband and two daughters, who keep helping her "learn as she grows." Her book Food for My Daughters is available in all global markets on Amazon and Better World Books.
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