food movement

Eating mindfully: "The Six Contemplations for Young People"

A few years ago, I listened to an interview by Jon Cabot-Zinn on the topic of mindfulness. I was beginning graduate school, having a near mid-early-20s crisis of sorts, and it was exactly what I needed to hear to be more sane, and it really did change my perspective on how to live.

Since then, the concepts of "being mindful" and "being present" are ever-present...and I hope these notions of self-awareness are taken to heart (..and not just another superficial -ism). I'm fascinated by the connection, too, about what and how we eat and the impact on our immediate bodies as well as the world around us. Enter: How to Eat, a book, part of a mindfulness series, by Zen master and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. To use the favorite adjective of my friend, it's truly magical. It's enlightening, empowering, and, really, just full of common sense.

My family did not say grace before meals, but, as I got into farming and growing food, I grew to like the notion of giving gratitude to the food on the table. Even if not said aloud, it's something that all parties at the table can recognize, contemplate, and participate in: how the food got to our plates, the work involved to produce that food by both humans and nature, and embracing the individuals present and sitting around the table. I thought I'd share one of my favorite sections from the book, called "Six Food Contemplations for Young People," which makes it digestible (pun intended) for all ages:

Six Food Contemplations for Young People by Thich Nhat Hanh

1. The food is the gift of the whole universe: the Earth, the sky, the rain, and the sun.

2. We thank the people who have made this food, especially the farmers, the people at the market, and the cooks.

3. We only put on our plate as much food as we can eat.

4. We want to chew the food slowly so that we can enjoy it.

5. This food gives us energy to practice being more loving and understanding.

6. We eat this food in order to be healthy and happy, and to love each other as family.


How cool is that? By now, I assume that a fair amount of people may have given up on their resolutions - many of which are unfortunately prompted by a negative or unhealthy relationship with food or one's self-image. But, think about it: if we learn to be present during our meals, and, by extension, experiences in our lives, things begin to gain some clarity. We all could use a little more patience and understanding in our lives, and it seems that if we incorporate these thoughtful set of mantras into our daily practice, eating and living could be a bit more cheerful and magical. 


Get the book - it's definitely worth the read: How to Eat by Thich Nhat Hanh, available through Parallax Press, or check with your local bookstore (I got my copy at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT!). 

Scratching the surface: the harvest so far in La Plant

Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.
— Robin Wall Kimmerer, from "Braiding Sweetgrass"

Now that the major infrastructure projects are complete, this growing season in the garden (as part of the La Plant Grows Its Own Food! healthy living initiative of Simply Smiles) is all about production. We've already held two farmstands out of the nine slated for this 2016 season! It's also the first time where I've felt most confident on this whole growing thing out here because, well, things are actually growing and growing really well! And, it's not just the day-to-day responsibilities and routine required, but, rather, a deeper understanding the rhythm of the seasons, really feeling the soil, and getting a solid sense of this place.

This is, of course, just scratching the surface (pun intended). But, for now, here are a few snapshots of the harvest so far, which is proving to be the most productive we've had in three years!

Snapshots & musings from South Dakota: June-early July 2016

If all the world is a commodity, how poor we grow. When all the world is a gift in motion, how wealthy we become.
— Robin Wall Kimmerer, from "Braiding Sweetgrass"

I'm currently reading Kimmerer's work, "Braiding Sweetgrass," and I'm finding that her words are so timely and so needed. The upswing in chaos, violence, and hate that we've seen in recent weeks will not disappear because of one small garden on a remote part of an isolated reservation. But, I'm not willing to accept that hatred and violence should be the basis of the headlines or that small acts of peace should go unnoticed.

Fortunately, the La Plant garden allows me to embrace the place and space and adds a richness to my life, as I hope it does for the kids of La Plant. Sorry if this sounds too white person-myopic - it's not meant to at all. As I've written about in the past, I cannot even begin to know what it is to be Native, or African American, Muslim or any other ethnicity, religious sect, or population who must exist and endure with the ever-present threat or possibility of violence to their physical person or their children.

One garden does not erase the enormous injustices and brutalities in this world. But, we can use the concept of a garden as a way to treat one another as, well, equals and return to civility and humility. Through the garden, we learn to respect the interactions between the things we can't control - namely, Mother Nature - and the fruits of our nurturing to enjoy the food that we grow and eat. We can listen to the sounds of buzzing bees, children laughing, and the rush of water hitting the soil and seeds. By observing, listening, and absorbing, we have the capacity to become more centered, more focused on obstacles and on differences of opinions, more open to speaking to one another, and try to deeply understand our purpose to live as better people.

This time, I'll let a few photos speak for the past month and a half on the Reservation, filled with blooming potatoes, kid-run garden tours, turnip foraging, the beginning of sweet carrots and sugar snap peas, and, yeah, I'll go there: hope.

Captions: (1) the first flush of arugula (2) a cucumber seedling emerges (3) the greenhouse, June 12, 2016 (4) early morning light in mid-summer greenhouse, July 9, 2016 (5) the first tomato flowers, June 16, 2016 (6) radishes! (7) young garlic check (8) first big greens harvest, June 19, 2016 (9) added art to the greenhouse (10) Winter’s first harvest, June 21, 2016 (11) finally found: a prairie turnip (12+13) foraging with Lakota elder, Ford Hill (14+15) potatoes, pre- and post-bloom (16) the open Plains (17) my garden assistant, sowing climbing bean seeds in our newly opened field! (18) the jalapeños make an appearance, July 1, 2016 (19) the first summer squash emerges, July 4, 2016 (20) carrot check, July 4, 2016 (21) the green garden, July 5, 2016 (22) prickly pear cactus, hiding among the prairie grasses (23) climbing sugar snap pea tendrils, climbing (24) wildflowers at the Missouri River (25) a welcoming squash blossom, July 8, 2016 (26) Sergio, my kid garden assistant and resident tour guide, doing his thing with confidence…and an iron fist!

NPR's The Salt covers seeds, seafood, 'food, not lawns,' oranges and other terrific stories

I love when the media gets things right and focuses on interesting, lesser known elements of the food system. I'm super impressed by NPR's food blog, The Salt, and its recent coverage of food issues. Take a look at the latest headlines:

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