By Ruth Conniff on November 24, 2010

Last Saturday, at the indoor farmer's market in Madison, Wisconsin, I bought 100 butternut squash and hauled them to a local church so a group of parents could cut them up and cook and serve them at school.

The smell of the squash cooking made the kids who came to the church kitchen want to eat it then and there.

As the weather turns cold, and local produce gets scarcer, it's a good time to appreciate how lucky we are to have so much fantastic food growing so close to home.

Local farm-to-school advocates at REAP worked around the clock on Monday and Tuesday polishing apples and making raw sweet-potato sticks to serve to the kids in the local schools on Wednesday.

On Thursday, a lot of us lucky enough to live in this agricultural center will feast on turkey, sweet potatoes, and pies made with local ingredients so much better than anything shipped for hundreds of miles to the local chain store it is hard to overstate.

The only way to keep that going is to support our local farmers. As the REAP web site explains, "The current national food system is dominated by very few large corporations which are forcing farmers to accept lower prices, grow only 'travel-tolerant' varieties, grow bigger, use more chemical inputs, or leave the farm altogether. When farmers sell directly to their neighbors, fewer middlemen cut into their profits. Farmers can afford to stay on their land producing an abundance and variety of food while being good stewards of the land."

Appreciating local produce--and the natural ebb and flow of the seasons--is a good antidote to the nationwide consumer frenzy that officially kicks off this week as Americans line up outside big box stores for Black Friday.

As the Reverend Billy Bulletin, who is leading an annual "Buy Nothing Day" Parade on Friday in New York City puts it in a sermon to shoppers: "Actual life must again be how we experience our time on this Earth. Can we imagine turning away from the shopping? - that fake revolution. Turning away from the holiday sale. Turning toward the Earth that waits in the doorway across the highway. And waits within our body and soul."

How about hitting the farmer's market instead of the mall this weekend?

My friend Jessica Prentice, chef, author, and local food advocate who coined the term "locavore," has just created a series of local food wheels, handy gadgets that show what's in season throughout the year in the San Francisco Bay Area, the New York Metro Area and the Upper Midwest.

(Here in the Upper Midwest, where it just started snowing, we can still get local sweet potatoes, cranberries, cauliflower, carrots, and, of course, foods that are grown indoors.)

Jessica hopes people will stick the wheel to their refrigerators and think about shopping at their local farmer's markets. But, in a fine-print clause on the wheel, she cautions that weather conditions and produce availability may vary. "The only way to know what is in season is to go to the farmers' market and shop. Talk to vendors, ask questions and learn more; there are bound to be some surprises, and that is part of the joy of eating locally. Happy Foraging!"

Sounds like the perfect greeting for the season.

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Race and Crisis in the Schools ."

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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