By LYNNE IRONS
While enjoying my morning cup of Joe, I looked out at my blooming white rhododendron, fragrant viburnum, fully budded miniature lilac, weeping crabbapple, mature old apple in all its glory, the remnants of the flowering quince, and watched a pair of orchard orioles flitting about in the apple tree. Now there is a sight to write home about. I confess I don’t do that as often as I would like. Good thing the folks receive the Gazette weekly. Hi Mom and Dad . . . . Love you!
During last week’s Mother’s Day telephone conversation, I asked my mother about the wild leeks that grow in the hills of Pennsylvania. I think they are called Appalachian ramps. I remember in elementary school when some of my classmates (invariably boys) would eat a bunch of them and get sent home for the day because of the lingering aroma. My mother, who is blessed with a remarkable memory, told me the house would smell for days after cooking up a bunch of wild leeks.
I went on a search in vain for my copy of Roget’s Thesaurus. I have had it since high school and since I never clean and toss, I know it is around here somewhere. I was looking for some other words instead of awesome, breathtaking, gorgeous or beautiful to describe the enormous crabapple on the corner of Church and Franklin in Vineyard Haven opposite Saint Augustine’s Church. Brooks Carter owned that house years ago. He had Shirley’s Hardware before Shirley, never mind Jesse. Another beauty is the cherry next to Morrice the Florist. In fact, that entire yard next door is lovely.
Working Earth is doing the landscaping at the newly renovated Humphrey home at the State Road end of North Road. They have planted four or five redbuds right at the North Road intersection. I hope I live long enough to see them mature.
I recycle the plastic plant tags that come on nursery-grown stock. I just write over the print with an indelible marker. The Sharpie brand called Rub-a-Dub, found in the detergent aisle at the grocery, is the only one that really doesn’t fade in the sun. Regular permanent markers do not hold up more than a couple of months.
Last Saturday I saw the King Corn movie at the Katharine Cornell Theatre. You are in for it now, dear reader. It was yet another eye-opener about our American food system. A couple of young men, East Coast college graduates, decide to move to Iowa, rent an acre of land, grow corn and follow it through the food chain. After renting the land, they met with the government officials who run the land management office in the area. Get this: They were given $28 to grow that acre of corn. Everyone is paid $28 an acre to grow as much corn as possible. Remember in the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture paid farmers not to produce to keep the price stable.
Before the use of genetically modified seed (to make it resistant to huge amounts of weed killer) and enormous machinery (they planted their acre in 18 minutes), an acre would yield 40 bushels. Now 200 bushels is not unusual for one acre. Americans demand cheap food and have received it. Thirty per cent of the bushel goes into feed lots to fatten cattle at an alarming rate. It has changed the shape of beef. Grass-fed beef has a fat content of one per cent, whereas corn-fed is more than nine per cent fat. Ten per cent of the bushel is exported and the remaining 60 per cent goes to the production of ethanol (an entirely other subject) and high-fructose corn syrup. Corn syrup has absolutely no nutritional value except calories. Since the 1970s, it has been added into an unbelievable amount of our food. Soda used to be made with table sugar, but is now exclusively corn syrup. One interviewee said he did nothing but stop drinking soda and he lost 136 pounds. His entire family suffers from diabetes.
The most upsetting thing in the entire movie was how all the local farmers did nothing but grow corn. There were no chickens, tomato plants, fruit trees, in fact, nothing but corn as far as the eye could see. They all shop for cheap food like the rest of the country. The farmers spent all their time on huge machines. One man actually said, “We don’t grow food, we grow crap and the U.S. government pays us to do it.”
The young men were inspired to do the project after reading Michael Pollen’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Michael will be speaking at the ag hall on July 22. Get tickets early.