Monday, June 8, 2009


Doing what some lucky cows do.  Chew cud.  Lay on GRASS.
My very own cabbage.
Driving North up 101 through the Salinas Valley is an amazing experience.  There are miles and miles of vineyards!  The vineyards creep up the hills to a certain point and then swoosh back down to the valley and across to the other side.  Reminds me of watching Skyler skate; zoom, swoosh, crash! swoosh, zoom, swoosh, crash! swoosh... (repeat)(repeat). 
I grew up on a farm, where around the kitchen table the "nation's food supply..." was discussed! Imagine!  Dad was concerned and would talk about who was growing the crops, where, how the crops got to market or processing plant.  He graduated from a program at UCD, I have some of his notebooks (how to grow strawberries).  He followed regulations, which by today's standards may have been pretty simple:  no antibiotics get into the milk.  I remember his frustration at other dairy rancher's casual or non-existent following of that rule. 

Whenever I see houses being built into insta-neighborhoods across fertile cropland I scream and hollar.  It pains me:  just north of Salem, Oregon is a spot of Willamette Valley floor which has/had the deepest recorded level of topsoil on the planet...  yeah.  Think about it covered with streets and two-story houses.  Near Davis, CA... same thing: black, black, black topsoil paved over with cul-da-sacks and mega-houses(with how many mortgages?) and the same goes for communities from Sacramento to SF, as well as south along the I5 corridor.  In a way I am glad that I don't even know how many places have done and are doing this stupid practice.

Back to Salinas:  giant painted figures of farm workers glorify the salad bowl fields, where giant tractors cultivate, fertilize, and otherwise do most of the "work."  Of course there are farm workers, doing the spraying, and application of all the chemicals used to grow the nation's iceberg lettuce.  There are also crowds of workers bending and cutting the broccoli and cabbages and lettuces and flinging them up on to the conveyor belt that is constantly turning as a tractor pulls the whole contraption down the rows.

I even saw a field of Parsley!  And a few fields of carrots.  My favorite game is "Identify the Crop!" and I am pretty good at it.  My brain absorbs all of this.

As we drove North towards Salinas, I realized that here is a new intruder.  Maybe not even so new, since this was my first trip down this far.  Seeing the ruins of the Missions was startling: This missionary system didn't do anybody any good.  Onward, I began to notice the grapes. Vineyards miles long and wide, with their metal infrastructure, and their irrigation set-ups. Acres and acres of green green grapes, sucking every last drop of water out of the river and the underground.  In Atascadero and north, there are signs encouraging people to drive dirty cars... it being a "sign of a model citizen who conserves water!"  I kid you not.

Where am I going with this?  It occurred to me as I watched the rows of vineyard slide across the valley and up into the foothills and back down again... that as agribusiness focuses on making money, that the humans (that's me, you, us.) are going to have to get a little smarter, pretty quick now.  Look carefully at that salad in your bowl, as it is becoming an endangered species.  Lettuce will not hold its own against the wall of vineyard coming up the Salinas Valley.

A delightful and uplifting activity is vegetable gardening.  Growing my own cabbages makes me happy.  My lettuce was a treat for the earwigs and little black slugs, but the Arugula and Swiss Chard are vigorous and tasty.  The Goldfinches are enjoying the Mammoth Sunflower leaves, and the Blue Jays and Grosbeaks will love the seeds.  My garden envelopes me with color, sound, scent, all of which soothe.  

Plant lots!


la diabla said...

this explains why I shout out the names of crops as I drive down I-5! Please tell my children, I got it from you!

di said...

i really can't imagine _not_ growing food. dirt is in my iowan blood. my life's mantras include organic, local and slow. barbara kingsolver is my hero! :)
love ya, di

Sorrow said...

Reminds me of "in defense of foods" a book that i read a while book.
Imagine having to defend food?
Oh how lost o would be if I didn't have my early morning hours in the red dirt weeding my eggplant, and tomatoes, how lonely my bees would be without the pollen from my sunflowers...
Hey! what's in your bowl for dinner?
that arugala sounds Yummy!

J said...

that would be "Lie on grass" :-)

N2 said...

I really like the memoir/politics slant of this post, LC. You is my kind of farmer =o)
xx00 N2

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