Just had to share what’s on my mind right now. Beans. And more beans. I am inundated in beanness.

Back at the end of February or early March, I had a moment of sheer terror (more than a moment, actually. More like 5 months now.) because my brain is always snaking around out there in the future, and what it saw out there was more than a little bit alarming. With climate change already disrupting food supplies in many parts of the world (where are all those hungry people going to go?), all I could think about was the total disruption of the food supply and starving daddies raiding neighborhood gardens just to feed their 7 screaming babies. Yes, overpopulation is one of the reasons we’re in this whole mess, but that’s another story.

Back to me cowering in the corner anticipating all my body fat melting away (wait! That’s a good thing!) in starvation, or being shot for food by some redneck asshole who’s too stupid to plan: I told my partner that we needed to plant a really substantial garden this year. (He doesn’t garden. I don’t allow him inside the fence.) He nods, not looking up from his spy thriller novel. “Bruce!!! Do you hear me? This is REAL!!” Captain Casual nods again.

Musical Fruits

So I’m freaking out. What kind of seeds to buy? How many potatoes? Carrots? Squash? Gotta plant the “three sisters” (corn, beans, squashes) because together they provide complete nutrition. We will NOT starve, I thought. And maybe we’ll have enough to give our neighbors too.

Pole beans, cranberry beans, and black beans — all for shelling — plus green beans, peas, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers (for pickles), Swiss chard, cilantro (and coriander), lovage (and lovage seed), raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, potatoes (red and Yukon gold), carrots, asparagus, artichokes, more shelling beans (it’s dangerous to go out there at night with all those tendrils vining about), onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, tomatoes (Sungold, Siberian, and my dad’s French seeds that make 2-lb tomatoes), and every herb you can name. Yes, including saffron and tarragon and bay leaves. Oh, and peppers (3 kinds) and tomatillos. And Bruce just started 6 new plants of a mysterious type, so I had to clean out a potato bed today to make room for them. (Did I mention lettuces and turnips and corn and rhubarb?)

Let’s see. Where was I? Oh yeah. Cowering in the corner, realizing that I would have to grow ALL our food for the entire year until the next crop comes in. I’ve literally been in this state since early March. My garden today is overwhelming. Already I’ve given away bags and bags of potatoes, beans, artichokes, and strawberries. I have too much to process right now. But in the end, better too much than not enough, right?

Do You Carrot All about Farming?

All this above just to say how much I appreciate real farmers. Today I picked enough green beans (OMG, delicious, sweet, tender French matchstick beans) to feed 20 people (really — this is an exact number). I gave about half of them away to grateful neighbors, after spending 3 hours in the hot sun picking them by hand, and then another 90 minutes cutting the ends off, steaming, cooling, and vacuum-sealing them in meal-sized bags. Sales price of each bag at the market? About $1.25. The total sales price of my entire haul today? About $12.50. Half a day’s work, $12.50.

Well, I’m sure there are more efficient ways to get beans on one’s plate. And I’m not complaining, mind you. Just sayin’ that how the living hell can a farmer pay her mortgage? So all the while I’m sealing these little bags of beans I’m thinking, “What if I bought these beans fresh at the farmer’s market? How many hours of labor would have gone into them?” And then they have to be transported here, the booth costs something, his time selling in his booth, and so on.

Lettuce Feed You

It is almost shameful how little we pay for our food when you think about what goes into the production of it. Maybe bigger farmers spend less time per sprout, but maybe they have to use lots of chemicals to make things grow faster or to kill slugs or other greedy bugs, and those chemicals cost money too (not to mention what they cost the ecology). So the organic farmer, even though she can charge a little more, it costs her more in terms of time spent weeding and picking those little green worms off the broccoli (yes, I grew broccoli this year too), so that the organic farmer has even less cash at the end of the day.

Gotta go. Dinner is ready! Scriptus interruptus. I’m not done with this subject yet. More to come!

Thanks for reading! :D

A long time denizen of the Pacific Northwest, scientist, educator, artist, farmer, chicken wrangler, editor & writer at SalishMagazine.org.

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