Farm To Table: Growing For The Greater Good

Crystal Stevens LaVista CSA

By Crystal Stevens

One of the joys of growing food for the community is educating others about the importance of eating local for both our own health and the health of the environment. All of the local farmers in this region educate their communities either through example, through internship programs, through school field trips and through on-farm workshops. For the last decade I have dedicated my life to empower people to grow their own food and medicine, to adopt clean living in their daily lives, and to navigate using the internal eco-compass. Adopting a cause is important to this planet. At the moment, my cause is food, the one common denominator we all have in need for survival. Food unites us, builds resilient communities and strengthens our local economy. Resiliency and community building are vital components to a brighter future. Food plays a huge role in the world. Food production can be produced in a way that is beneficial to the soil, water, air and our bodies. However the current big agricultural food system is causing damage to the environment. Eating close to the earth, supporting small family farms and growing your own food (when multiplied by the millions) can truly make a difference in helping to heal the broken food system.

There is a need to garden, not just grow food for our families, but to grow for the greater good. Let’s plant trees so that future generations can breathe. Let’s restore ecosystems prairies, wetlands, woodlands and glades. These ecosystems will attract pollinators. Without pollinators our plates would be empty. Let’s paint this town with an oasis of life giving gardens- community gardens, balcony and container gardening, edible landscaping, permaculture gardens, and urban farms.

These are real tangible ways to bring about positive change to communities, to bring people together from all walks of life, and to build community. There are so many transformative success stories of St. Louis Communities rooted in positive change. EarthDance Organic Farm School in Ferguson, Gateway Greenings Therapeutic Horticulture Program, St. Patrick’s center, Community Action Agency, The Food Roof Farm, the Sustainable Backyard Tour. The paradigm shift is happening as more and more individuals and communities invest in their health through gardening. It is important to keep having conversations about food. Gardening is a catalyst for social change, a practical solution to poverty. Friendships sprout up as the racial and socioeconomic borders start to dissipate in the garden.

We need it now more than ever, as large scale food production using chemicals can be linked to most of the environmental catastrophes of our time- deforestation, soil degradation, water and air quality, our reliance on fossil fuels and the overuse of nonrenewable resources. We need solutions today. With over seven billion people on earth today every action counts. Planting trees and gardens for the future can weave together humanity, the arts, culture, sustainability and reverence for the earth. Plants are a quintessential component to human survival. Our connection to plants is deep seeded and necessary for our sustenance and for the planet! We need trees to breathe; plants provide food for humans, wildlife and pollinators; they filter air and water, prevent erosion, and offer shelter.

According to author and educator Toby Hemenway’s Permaculture Flower (modified from David Holmgren), it is best to grow our own food in our own backyard first. What we can’t grow ourselves, we can acquire at local community gardens and small farms or by supporting local farmers markets. We can then support area businesses which are purveyors of local foods. Finally, only when we simply have utilized all of our local resources, then we visit the chain supermarket (some of which are working with local farmers) to complete our food needs. This mindset offers a creative insight into how our thoughts about food need to shift a little in order to truly be invested in the local foods movement. Localizing our food system is one action we all can take. It’s time to get back to our roots and dig into the earth with our hands. Together we can grow a beautiful future.

Crystal Stevens and her husband Eric run LaVista CSA farm in Godfrey, Illinois. Crystal is a regular contributor to The Healthy Planet. Visit lavistacsa.org for more information.