Harvest Time

Sep 4th, 2017 | By | Category: Agriculture, Commentary

By Janna Graham/Contributor

Janna Graham

Janna Graham

The fall season has traditionally marked a shift from the hard work of summer into the more reflective and restful winter months. In the past, people focused on enjoying fall’s abundance, as well as harvesting and preserving the plentiful supply of vegetables, fruits, and game that characterize the season.  The work of cultivation waned a bit (or would soon), and friends and family gathered to celebrate, reflect, and prepare for the cold winter ahead.  This was a necessary step on the seasonal path.  Without careful food cultivation and preservation during the warmer months, there wouldn’t be enough to eat during the winter.

Over time, food production has become the business of specialists, and much less visible to the rest of us. Of course, supporting businesses that produce good, healthy food in a sustainable way should be a top priority. We want such businesses to stay vital and contribute to a robust local economy. That’s why now is a great time to learn about the people in our area who are in the business of making food.  The best places to start are the Portneuf Valley Farmers Market and the Pocatello Co-op.  The Farmers Market will continue to meet through October, and it offers a wonderful chance to shop for vegetables, fruits, and cottage foods (like breads and pies) grown or made in our area.  Talk to the salespeople, and find out more about their operation. At the Co-op, you will find vegetables from local farmers, as well as meat, milk, butter, ice cream, honey, eggs, mustard, and other foods produced right here in Idaho. The staff are knowledgeable and happy to answer questions or offer suggestions. You will likely walk away with a much broader picture of what our local and regional food producers are doing.

Most of us now rely on professional food producers (local or not), but we can still experience a rather old-fashioned sense of excitement and urgency when our garden plot is suddenly overrun with zucchini or the plums on a neighbor’s tree ripen all at once.  Like our ancestors, we can take a break from our regular routine to marvel at – and deal with – the influx of fresh, seasonal food this time of year. It may not be the life-and-death matter that it was for earlier generations, but what if we treated it as a serious commitment in our schedule?  What if hanging out with friends, talking and eating and cooking and preserving food for the winter, was just as important as the next staff meeting or school function? Traditional skills such as canning produce allow us to practice a measure of self-reliance and mindfulness. We have control over the ingredients we use and how they are processed. We connect ourselves to previous generations. We also create a chance to step away from the screen and do something hands-on and worthwhile: feeding ourselves and our families wholesome food.

Putting up the harvest, even on the smallest of scales, requires planning and effort.  Why not make it a joyous occasion as well? Gather a group of like-minded friends to help each other make jam or prepare vegetables for freezing. Celebrate the unique array of foods supported by our climate and landscape by organizing a “harvest dinner” focused on local, seasonal foods. Invite friends and family to contribute dishes made from food grown or gathered in our area. Show off the salsa you made or the eggplants you grew. While it may seem small, taking a few moments off from the whirlwind of daily life to connect with people and place is one of the best stress relievers around, and it can provide the basis for a truly meaningful reflection on what we have.

Janna Graham is outreach coordinator for the Pocatello Co-op. She’s at outreach@pocatellocoop.com.

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