Sunday, March 21, 2010

Planting Potatoes

This past weekend I planted potatoes at the Bells Bend Community Farm. The resulting experience was not something I was expecting. After the planting I felt a heightened connection to my food.

Connecting to my food is a venture I have been on for some time now, and in fact, the pursuit of this connection is ultimately what led me to ENCM to work as the garden manager. No doubt, my connection to food has deepened with every seed panted and every leaf, fruit, root, or flower eaten. But, this past weekend I planting potatoes.

The scene is this:

After an eleven-hour workday of planting at the Inglewood community garden (greens, beets, flowers) and constructing a fence at Kevin and Molly Seale's newly purchased farm in Bells Bend, I called Eric Wooldridge to ask if he was still planting. After a few rings he answered, “Thank God it’s you!”. A short conversation ended with me saying I was on my way to help.

I arrived and parked at the bottom of the newly plowed field. As the field tucked between a row of wind breaking trees, a hedge of brambles, and open cow pasture came into view I saw Eric on the tractor. A handful of folks with baskets of ready-to-plant-potatoes hanging from their hips were moving barefoot in Tennessee’s iconic red soils under Eric’s direction. In no time I had a basket at my hip and was standing in the middle of a fresh furrow.

The instruction for actually planting the potatoes was not totally foreign to me; drop the potato in the furrow eye’s up, and step them into the ground--this is a traditional method of planting. This is what I, and the others, did--dropped the potato and walked it into the dirt; skin to skin.

The act of feeling the potato, the food item I will eat in 100 days, physically touching my foot, the cool soil pressing between my toes connected me to the food, the ground, the future of the food, the future of the ground, and all the familiar faces around me. The word cosmic keeps coming to mind, for this new, deeper, and overwhelming connection to all these thing around me was expected, exhilarating, refreshing, and healing.

Planting the humble potato helped heal me to the Earth we have all become broken to.

I need to further explain why this was a "new" experience, because as i have said i have had many profound openings to food. Why would this experience be any different?

Potatoes are different because of the actual connection to my feet. All other forms of connecting, or re-connectiing, to food is above the waist. When we taste fresh local strawberries for the first it is with our mouth. When I make a connection between local, sustainably grown food and hunger relief, poverty, religion, global economies, the environmental movement, or politics, it is with intellect, or my head. When I am placing a seed in a soil-block at the greenhouse it is with my hand. We rarely consider our feet, or other parts of our bodies, as mediums to connect with food. But when I was planting potatoes and felt them sink into the ground under my bare feet, I instantly felt the connection to the aforementioned ideas. I had beautiful landscape around me; a tucked away field secluded from all society, a hill in the distance between the bare early-spring tress, and a creek just below our field. I had beauty. I had potatoes, the idea of potatoes, and hope.

Connection, healing, and beauty is not something we often truly experience in our daily lives. I encourage all readers of this post to please plant potatoes somewhere--and take your shoes off!


Ryan Fasani said...

it doesn't get better than that!! the experience AND the post. thanks, justin.

Kirsten said...

Yes yes yes yes yesssssssss!