“Yes, Pinkie, I had one taker for the pole beans. I received a note just the other day and, as it happens, that was just after I heard the seed keeper from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne speak.”
“So, you’ll send them along as promised?”
“Yes, and I’d like to send some to the seed keeper as well, but that’s not the thing you wanted to talk about, is it?”
It’s a cold day, cold at least in the failing light of December as they walk among the stones of this sombre place, bordered by the river brown, a sluggish flow carrying the glacial clay of their southern locale, on to the lakes, on to the larger river, on to the sea.
It’s not the traditional time of hunger, he thinks. That only comes later, when harvest stores lie empty and the promise of the season’s renewal lies tauntingly near.
Pinkie, though, is focused on the present. She’s among a growing number of people concerned about hunger in a time when sustenance not only travels across entire continents but among them as well.
“I know you and your odd friend Fast Eddie have been critical of the CBC but Sunday’s call-in did bring up some pertinent points,” Pinkie says, waiting for my nod of agreement before moving on.
“Seems that things are moving along nicely for that organic farmer who called in. He said the farm he’s involved with employs a large number of inspired workers who feed 400-odd families. Families pay about $600 for 18 weeks of vegetables and there’s very little in the way of transportation involved.
“It was the woman near end that really got me to thinking, though. She said the hunger that exists in our land of plenty is more about poverty than any increase in food prices and talked about the need for farmers to be paid enough for what they do.”
Light, bright and sharp, is unveiled at that moment. He says nothing though, only waits for Pinkie to continue as they enjoy the warmth.
“It’s a dysfunctional marketplace, isn’t it?” she says, more statement than question. “I mean outside of things like the organic piece. Most of us are fed by the big farmers but from what I’ve read, the number of farmers keeps falling. And didn’t you say the other day that we’re in trouble because agricultural soils are losing their fertility?”
“I don’t disagree, Pinkie, but the madness doesn’t stop there, a point I don’t think was touched upon during that program.”
Pinkie looks over, a question in her eyes.
“The farmland of today isn’t what it was when it was broken out 200-odd years ago. It’s lost its fertility, a good part of it at least. As the alternative, we’ve replaced it with fossil fuels, mined nutrients and other things. Soil isn’t soil any more. It’s just the place you anchor your crops as you feed them and spray them with chemicals.”
“Sounds like a rut to me,” Pinkie says, “one that’s only getting deeper and, it seems to me, there’s connection to climate change. You know, the global warming thing.”
“I don’t disagree, my dear, but there may still be reason for hope. While the evils have been released, that, at least, remains.”
“Build the soil. Put the carbon back.”
He looks at his friend with surprise, and a new level of admiration.
“It’s been done, but not on a grand scale and it takes time, Pinkie. Let’s just pray more than you and I come to the realization it needs to be done.” ◊