The first farmers I ever met were my mom and dad. They were small farmers with day jobs who grew most of the vegetables and fruits we ate throughout the year. We had a canning room in the basement, a room lined with shelves, filled with glass mason jars of peaches, green beans, tomatoes, pickles, sauerkraut and smoked salmon. Some jars were more precious to my sister and I than others. We helped in the garden through the summer, and then participated in the process of putting it all away for the winter.
One of my first pets was a pansy. We were each given one to plant, my sister and I and the neighbor girl next door. We gingerly planted them in the ground, watered them, and thoughtfully named them. We visited the pansies everyday, not sure what we would find, maybe a weed to pull or an insect to pick off. There was a daily drama lived out in the garden, and now, 30 years later, I remain thankful for the privilege of having learned not only where my daily food comes from, but also the hard work and commitment that goes into producing it. I realize now, that few other children growing up in the suburbs around us had the same experience with a garden that I did.
Before the popularity of backyard chickens, my father brought home a box of chicks and supplies to build a rather large hen house. We collected the hen’s eggs daily, and we were each given a chick to call our own. Those poor chickens! We built houses for our pet chickens out of cardboard boxes, put our doll dresses on them and walked them around the neighborhood, somehow strapped into little baby strollers. When it came time to ‘harvest’ the flock, we were promised that our birds were going to live out their lives with another farmer nearby. That we were NOT going to eat our pets. I am pretty sure they ended up on our plates.
Now as someone who works to help small farmers around the globe, I realize how truly privileged we really were. We didn’t have to garden. At any time my parents could have jumped in the car, and purchased our food from the grocery store. We didn’t have to preserve the extra peaches, or beans or tomatoes. We could have left them to rot without consequence. But for the majority of small farmers in the global south, this is far from reality.
I am daily thankful for the role that agriculture plays in my life and for those who daily labor to bring food to our table.