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Mon, Oct. 18

Gardens for Humanity: What is our relationship with our food?

(Gardens for Humanity/Courtesy)

(Gardens for Humanity/Courtesy)

In the month of October we are between the harvest moon of September, and the Thanksgiving celebrations of November. This is a transition time between seasons, when all of our senses are kindled by change.

In the context of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives it is also a good time for reflection and for preparing ourselves for a life conditioned by new realities and priorities.

One big shift in many people’s lives is how we get our food. In the Verde Valley during the pandemic, demand for emergency food providers, food banks, and pantries virtually tripled. All regional schools became core providers of food for children even during the summer months. Many people started ordering groceries online and had them delivered.

During the spring of 2020, Gardens for Humanity received many inquiries for guidance in starting home gardens. In the early stages of the pandemic, people were anxious about how it might impede their access to fresh food.

We also saw an increase of interest and actions to promote local foods and community gardens. Local First Arizona created the “Good Food Finder” website, and they have partnered with the Town of Camp Verde to launch a regional agricultural brand called “Verde Grown.”

The Rotary Club of the Sedona Village started a thriving community garden on an abandoned baseball field at the Big Park campus. Our Yavapai-Apache neighbors started a “Food Sovereignty Garden,” to celebrate their cultural traditions, promote better health, and be a focal point for community. The Sedona Greenhouse Project was launched to promote food production, food gathering, and education.

These examples are among many others as we get more involved with our food, an essential part of our lives. When we feel powerless in the face of uncertainty, and start to take control of how we get our food, we gain a sense of empowerment.

In a community where we have many well-stocked supermarkets, we do not get a sense of being “food insecure,” especially those of us who have a dependable economic foundation. However, almost all of the food we eat is imported long distances. The reality is that we are all vulnerable to becoming food insecure since we depend on a long food chain that could be just one crisis away from breaking by factors such as long-term drought, excessive heat, or labor and transportation shortages.

During the past few years, Gardens for Humanity worked with other community partners in the food, agriculture, and nutrition sectors as part of the Verde Valley Food Policy Council. We developed a comprehensive food policy and an action plan that promote strategies to create a sustainable, healthy, nutritious, and accessible local food system for all our residents and visitors to our region. This policy demonstrates that a local food system can drive a robust economy that can also preserve and enhance our health, our environmental resources, and natural habitats.

It is the nature of gardeners to be pro-active and optimistic. We develop an intimate relationship with our food, and with many of the forces of nature that help us grow it.

From soil to plate, the journey of growing our food creates humility and thanksgiving. One result is that the big environmental challenges to our planet come into focus in our own back yards. We become participants on a small scale of what we have to do as global citizens. Learn more about how we can work together to improve our local food system by visiting gardensforhumanity.org.

Richard Sidy is president of the Gardens for Humanity, a founding member of the Sustainability Alliance and a member of the Verde Valley Food Policy Council. To reach him, email richardvsidy@mac.com.

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