Resolved: My family will eat more locally grown food in 2012

It’s been several years (maybe decades, to be honest) since I actually wrote a New Year’s Resolution and I have never shared one with family or friends, let alone published one.  Since this resolution has a long history for me, I will share some of the story.  Here’s a little background to my resolution: When I was in seventh grade in the late 1970s, my family moved to a quaint ton in central New Jersey-one which happened to have a subscription to Mother Earth News, which was at that point, published in Hendersonville, NC.  Fast forward several years and I enrolled as an art major at Appalachian State University, dreaming of becoming a sheep farmer in New Zealand or a “dirt farmer” somewhere in the NC, VA, or TN mountains.  Some years later, I graduated, married, and headed to Japan and Costa Rica, with the idea of self-sufficient farming still a dream that I planned to pursue at some point.

After six years abroad and the birth of a daughter, I returned to North Carolina to live near my family and to figure out a career that would allow some time to dabble in growing a garden.  Having taught in Japan, I decided to pursue teaching here.  During that same period, I had an opportunity to work at a summer camp in Vermont-Indian Brook at the Farm and Wilderness Camps-and to participate in gardening and animal care on their farm.  Upon returning from Vermont, my family built a small chicken coop and ordered baby chicks from McMurray Hatchery.  I was on the way to my dream of farming!

For a short while that year, I worked with a program in Greensboro that provided short term alternative education for middle and high school students who had been suspended from school.  Through trying to figure out a productive way to spend their time in the program and talking with some people with more years in the field of education than I had at that point, the idea of gardening with the students in a vacant lot came up.

Someone I knew mentioned that a fellow in town, Charlie Headington, had some experience with this sort of project.  I met Charlie; we looked at an available lot; life took some interesting twists; and that garden never came to be.  Some months later, I enrolled in a Saturday workshop at Charlie’s house-in his backyard to be more precise-and started learning about Permaculture-a term that embodies the sort of relationship with the Earth that I sought…working with nature to create local abundance-in the form of food, energy and water harvested without excessive inputs of labor or imported commodities.  Over the years, I’ve added fruit trees, blackberry vines, and blueberry bushes to my home garden, because they require the least work for the longest term productivity.

When it came time to find a more permanent teaching job, I interviewed at a few local public schools and at a private school-The Greensboro Montessori School.  It just so happened that Charlie Headington had been developing the gardens at their Horse Pen Creek campus for a year or two, when I was trying to decide where to teach.  GMS had an opening, where I settled into classroom teaching.  Over the years, I helped with the gardens when I could and incorporated the garden in many lessons.  Meantime, I had given up the chickens and the idea of self-sufficiency in food production at home.

In the winter of 2008-09, I was looking for inspiration to move back into farming and food production.  One fortuitous day, I ran across Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle at Edward McKay’s, a local secondhand bookstore.  When I picked it up during the winter holidays, I was hooked.  In the book, Barbara Kingsolver’s details her family’s move to a farm in Virginia and their quest to live as locavores.  Over the course of a couple of years, my husband gave me a greenhouse for Christmas and a chicken coop for our anniversary!  My dad and I built a turkey house in the summer of 2008 for a small flock of turkeys (mostly acquired from Gregory’s Poultry near Stuart, Virginia) took up residence.  Since then, my mom and my daughter put up with endless stories of the antics of the chickens and turkeys; and my extended family and friends and coworkers have eaten local eggs and dined on local turkeys for Thanksgiving.

By early 2010, once again following Charlie Headington’s lead, I was working at the Edible Schoolyard at the Greensboro Children’s Museum, shopping at the local Farmer’s Curb Market, and committed to eating in restaurants like Lucky 32 which source their meat locally.  Now, it’s almost 2012, and I am ready to make a public declaration that my family will eat more locally grown food in 2012.  We will grow annual vegetables year round, start seeds (probably in my daughter’s bedroom, once she heads back to college in January) and we may even raise some chickens specifically for meat .  I have also checked out some CSA options and hope to find shares available with the Goat Lady CSA. If you became a “locavore” years ago or you are just beginning that journey, please share your story!  We’ll be offering several family gardening workshops at the Edible Schoolyard this winter and spring and would love to help you increase your consumption of local food, as well.

Happy New Year!

-Eleanor

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