Picking Our Own Peaches
by Ramona Taylor
SPRING! Verdant, fresh, cool, warm, blooming, chirping and growing. Spring comes to me with the promise of food. I can’t help but make the connection between spring and fresh garden food. I see tons of fruit blossoms and imagine eating all those oh-so-delicious, tender, juicy fruits of summer! And yet it’s time to write this blog, write reports, and write funding requests. I ask myself, “Why am I spending precious hours and days plunking out words on my laptop in my dark office on these gorgeous days?” Here is my answer.
I remember the warm, early summer day I decided to actively pursue a different path in life. I had attended a few meetings to discuss food in our community. Some people had lots and others not enough; some could afford awesome organic food and others, only crappy processed food. Those meetings got me thinking and I decided to volunteer for the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC).
As a volunteer on a school field trip to a local farm, I had an exchange with a 6-year-old boy. We were standing next to a fruit tree. He looked up, pointed to the fruit and asked me, “What’s that?” I looked up and saw a peach. At first, I was confused by his question and I hesitated, but he was still looking at me for an answer. “It’s a peach. That’s a peach tree.” He gave me a quizzical look, skeptical even. I was a little taken aback and then a little horrified. This young boy growing up in rural northern California had no idea that peaches grew on trees. I asked him where he thought peaches came from. At this question, he perked up and cheerfully answered, “A can!” He knew they came from a can, and before that the store, and before that a truck, and the truck took a highway. Where did he think peaches came from before the truck? He was confused and had no answer. His eyes got really big…the ah-ha moment came when he realized those peaches in the can came from peaches that grew on peach trees.
Then we ate peaches. Fresh peaches off the tree. Drippy sweet, delicious, first of the season peaches. That moment changed the direction of my life…I was angry and sad this sweet little boy had never had a fresh peach. I realized this little boy was a product of our society being disconnected from our food. For some, peaches do come from the can.
Today, I work for the Mid Klamath Watershed Council Community Foodsheds Program. One of our current projects is The Klamath Roots Food Project, funded by a USDA Food Security Grant and a USDA Farm to School grant. The project is a collaboration with local schools, the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources (KDNR) and many community members and agencies. Approximately 330 youth in seven Mid Klamath Schools are involved with contemporary garden and traditional food based activities, curriculum and field trips. Field trips highlight local farmers and food production, volunteerism, and traditional food gathering trips. Partners from the KDNR and the Yurok Tribe Fisheries program have been invaluable, providing curriculum and field trips about traditional food resources and how land management decisions impact cultural resources. The project also addresses systemic barriers to increasing access to and consumption of fresh, local food in school cafeterias. All in hopes of inspiring students to become familiar with growing and making food, seeing local people and businesses that grow and make food, and empowering them to choose healthy food options.
That little peach boy is why I am plunking away at my computer on this absolutely gorgeous day. To see their little faces light up as they dig in the dirt and get DIRTY..to watch kids who “don’t like GREEN THINGS” gobble down some fresh made pesto they helped grow and make…to see the amazement on her face when she sees the pea starts in the window moving towards the sunlight and exclaims “They’re moving!…They’re ALIVE!” That is why I am spending my time writing reports trying to quantify the absolutely amazing qualitative experience to share a real, fresh delicious peach with a 6-year-old boy in the wilds of northern California.
Want to help out or learn more? Email me at Ramona@mkwc.org
To learn more about the Klamath Food Security Project and activities happening from the mouth of the Klamath River to the upper Basin, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this link.
Learn more about the impacts of Farm to School by clicking here.
This post is funded through USDA Food Security Grant #2012-68004-20018 & USDA Farm to School Grant #CN-F2S-SS-15-CA-03.
Photos in this blog, upper left to lower left (clockwise): (1) Local youth learn to plant in the community garden in Orleans. (2) Students get their hands dirty as they participate in a Weitchpec community garden as part of MKWC's Foodsheds Farm to School program. (3) The basil, pepper and pear harvest from a local school garden, on its way to being incorporated into school lunches. (4) Forks of Salmon students are proud of the potatoes they grew in their school garden! Photos 1 and 2 are courtesy of MKWC staff. Dara Soto captured Photo 3. Tammy Markin captured Photo 4.
Ramona Taylor is the Director of MKWC's Foodsheds Program, an effort that addresses community food needs by building strong relationships, organizing peer-to-peer workshops, events and projects based on seasonal food activities, supporting ongoing initiatives in our community, and providing technical support for building strong school, community and family gardens.