I Marvel at his Artichokes; He responds: “I Grow Them Just to Make the Californians Nervous.”

August 18, 2011 at 10:22 am

You are nobody until you get mentioned in the New York Times Op-Ed pages right?  Introducing more people to Elliot Coleman and his Maine grown artichokes004 is just one of the benefits of turning Mark Bittman from the Minimalist to a pundit.  In this week’s column, Bittman talks about the many new farmers inspired by Coleman and his four season farming (perhaps Illinois’s Nichol’s farm got the idea to grow their artichokes from Coleman).  He lets people know the possibilities available for good food.  Bittman can tell the scary stories too, why we need to change the way we eat, but as in this week’s report on farm growth, his seriousness is leavened with romanticism and the desire for a good meal.  Like his recipes, it all seems so easy with Bittman.

Something I especially want to see go down easy, one of my biggest high-horses since we started this site, is for more local farmers like Eliot Coleman.   We need more farmers, for sure, but we especially need four season farmers.  Really, we need two season farmers: winter and spring.  At present, in the Chicago area, we have very little production geared towards these seasons.

Yes, I have spent nearly my entire adult life in the Chicago area.  I know winter.  I also the possibilities of winter food production.  For one thing, farmers can use Colemanesque techniques to extend growing/start growing earlier.  For another, and to my mind, a widely under utilized concept,  farmers can simply store more food for winter sales.  A better food system, surely a better local food system needs farmers dedicated to winter markets.  The farmers selling now, they can have some time off.  Their food could and should be replaced by farmers whose season is just beginning; farmers planting tons of roots, apples, cabbage, potatoes and squash that can all be stored and sold all winter.  It is very doable.

And here’s the thing, it’s not like we are awash in fresh produce come winter anyways.  I hear often the argument of too much energy in indoor tomato production, but most of the winter tomatoes come from indoor sourcing anyways, just bad sourcing.  Potatoes, squash, the local beet in your market in the winter, they’re storage crops too; just storage crops grown by distant farmers, capitalists who see the need to keep people in vegetables come winter.  All the reasons that make us want to eat food from local farmers now, also applies then.  Yet, our desires for local produce four seasons remains stunted by the lack of four season farmers.  Hopefully, with Bittman on the scene, things will change.