Monday, January 10, 2011

Food Security and Community

I've been reading Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance. The book expresses several concerns about the possibilities of food and energy shortages, and presents possible solutions for when such disasters are closer at hand. And despite being open to many of Astyk's ideas, I read the book with some skepticism--some of her projections seem unrealistic (apocalyptic). Will people need to prepare for a life without any electricity? I don't know. Should everyone keep a 2-year supply of food stowed away in a basement? Although our present food situation isn't good, I think that the 2-year supply is a little extreme. (Of course, immediately after I say something like that, I see something like this, which makes me wonder--maybe Astyk is correct, to an extent, in her predictions.)

So I have been gleaning from the book that which I think will be most useful in my present situation.
The first of those things is her support of informal economies--economies made outside of the more visible structures of supermarkets and money. Astyk encourages people to make connections within their communities, to talk to neighbors, to look into the community farm; although this may be an obvious point to some people, she points out that those connections can help us meet our needs. I first started volunteering at Beardsley because I was between jobs and between paychecks, and wanted to feel productive and useful. I also needed a way to supplement our meals. And yes, I got to take home a few vegetables for my volunteer hours, but I gained much more than that--a sense of connection and purposefulness.
Something that is a little more difficult for me is connecting with neighbors. This is mostly a difficulty because it's easy to go to work, come home, and stay there; going out of the way to interact is something for which I've lost the knack (or perhaps it's my shyness, or conditioning). It is one of my goals to communicate with our neighbors more, to see what I can offer them in return for things I'd need. One neighbor has a stack of building materials that could be used for more vegetable beds; another neighbor has a large (unused) planter in the front yard; a third has fruit trees. And I'm sure that I could provide something to them in exchange for their offerings--it's only a matter of making the first move, asking, becoming involved. It would be an informal economy at work, practicing "rituals of non-consumption" through sharing what we already have.

Another thing that I like about Astyk's book is her passion for growing food, cooking, and putting up--all things that take time. She reminds that "some things you do because they are right, not because they are expedient." This will be the first year for us to try to really grow food; last year we had one tomato plant (that grew maybe 3 tomatoes) and some herbs. This year, my goal is to grow enough to be able to can some of our harvest. I don't know much about growing food yet, but I can't learn until I try. If it doesn't work out, there will always be next year. Now, I am collecting seeds, making a little plan for planting, and looking forward to warmer days ahead.

No comments: