In my senior year of high school, my English class read "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver, which is about a family that moves to Africa to serve as missionaries and, purely in my opinion high school senior self's opinion, become increasingly annoying the further into the book you read.
Last week, at the suggestion of my fellow Mining Journal columnist and book lover Deb Pascoe, I decided to give Kingsolver another try. As it turns out, she's also written some nonfiction, including a book called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," which chronicles the entire year Kingsolver and her family spent eating only locally produced foods, either grown themselves or produced by others in the immediate area.
Having spent a healthy amount of time reading and rereading the "Little House on the Prairie" books and pretending to be a pioneer when I was in elementary school, I find that to be, for lack of a better word, awesome.
While reading through "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," I've found myself wondering less about how that family could take on a challenge like that - I'm sure they're not the first ones - and more about how I could do it.
Arguably, they probably had an easier time of it because they lived in Virginia with a crazy-long growing season compared to the U.P. and a farm at their disposal. But still, could I do it? What would I have to give up for that year? Bananas, of course. Peanut butter? Can you grow peanuts in the U.P.? How about grains? I haven't seen many wheat fields around.
In the interest of further exploring the idea of local food, my family and I made a trip out to the Seeds and Spores Family Farm near Marquette last weekend for a farm tour. My parents made the decision to join the farm's Community Supported Agriculture program this summer, which gets them a big box of locally grown vegetables each week that I've been happily benefiting from, and we wanted to see how it was all done.
The farm tours are organized by the Marquette Food Co-op and focus on a different farm on different weekends throughout the summer. The Seeds and Spores tour allowed visitors to wander through the farm, seeing where animals are kept and how the vegetables are grown. We even got a tour of their mushroom-growing operation, located just across the street from the barn, a shady sanctuary sheltered from the sun that's so critical for growing tomatoes and peppers, filled with rows of logs bursting with newly grown shitake mushrooms.
We saw chickens living in a coop with plenty of room to run around outside, just like you imagine chickens doing (ones that aren't produced on factory farms, Google it). We watched a noisy bunch of piglets wallowing contentedly in the mud. We poked our heads into greenhouses full of basil and tomato plants, half drooling at the idea of finding them in our CSA box later in the summer.
Barbara Kingsolver was on my mind the entire time. Could I take on a local eating project like that?
Maybe not right now, but some day.
Until then, I'm doing my best to eat local. My honey comes from L'Anse. Jam comes from the Keewenaw. Milk comes in neat glass bottles from a dairy in Daggett. Lots of vegetables courtesy of my parents' garden and Seeds and Spores.
Best of all, my own tomato plant, which sits on my apartment's front steps, has sprouted its first tiny green cherry tomatoes. Waiting for them to turn red is like waiting for Christmas.
It's a start, anyway.
Editor's note:?Mining Journal Ishpeming Bureau reporter Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is email@example.com.