Love is food, family and farming

Posted: Saturday, February 13, 2016 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media

 

Funny thing about traveling in search of something is that everything you need is always within you and never where you are going.

 

Forty years later, I realize that everything important in my life I learned at the farm and those life lessons are a foundation that carry me beyond seed and soil with strong roots to a table filled with love and joy.

 

When you eat local and in season you make a difference not only by optimizing your health, but the health of your community and drive commerce too by developing a region economically and sustainably for longevity and wellness. Is there any other way to live?

 

Having traveled the world I’ve experienced agriculture in many forms, but the commonality is the connection and love people everywhere have to food. Somewhere along the way in our American culture we lost our way to the table swapping convenience for nutrition, giving value to fast and easy instead of honoring family dinners and cooking fresh local food as time — and money — well spent. If we are cheap with our food, we are cheating our health — something we rarely value until it is too late.

 

Living in Europe convinced me the age-old tradition of eating what’s in season and what comes from the land locally is, in fact, a sustainable supply chain. Local is the only way to live.

 

Eat what’s in season until there is no more. Then, switch to what’s available next. This way, you get all of the nutrition your body craves to optimize health and treat the environment right. This guarantees you will look and feel great — and probably eat less.

 

By eating in moderation and in the rhythm of the seasons (based on climate, yield, culture, proximity and availability), it’s win, win, win and what all natural should mean on the packaged food we do eat.

 

The table is a great equalizer; there is no black, white, rich or poor. We all need to eat, we are more alike than different and most importantly, eating locally honors people that work hard to feed us so well — our farmers.

 

I believe the family that eats together, stays together and fosters values that last a lifetime.

 

Born and raised in Upstate New York, I fled rural life in search of glamour, education, travel and success. I traveled around the world to find a career and like-minded people and ironically ended up back in an agricultural community that made me so happy in my youth.

 

My journey into food is unusual. I grew up with a vegetarian mother, who was actually a pescatarian (now that I know that term), but had no idea so young that my eating habits were different from other families since cooking wasn’t heat and serve.

 

My great-grandparents lived on a dairy farm, grew commodity crops and tended a gorgeous garden for which each of us kids had a personalized mason jar (and the metal top poked with holes) filled with sea salt we took to the garden to consume with fresh picked vegetables we ate while harvesting. In my youth I loved that farm, but as I grew older found it undesirable and uncool. I wanted everything packaged.

 

Food was everything to unify my dysfunctional family; it tied us together for a common purpose — a meal — and forced disagreements to be left at the door to focus on nourishment with taste, life and love. As a result we ate good wholesome food daily that was sourced from the farm, the catalyst for the passion I have for the family farm today. It just makes sense. I’ve spent my life healthy and fit as a result of an honest and conscious connection to where my food comes from and how it was made.

 

My mother, Nancy Edick, taught us one simple rule: If someone takes time to cook for you, no matter your food preferences or issues, you eat. And you thank them for their generosity.

 

The eldest of three children and raised by a struggling single mom, our meals were typically made with convenience in mind but never overlooked nutrition.

 

My mother insisted that without breakfast there was no point in going to school because you would be thinking about eating instead of changing the world. In that vein, we were dragged from bed early each morning for fresh bread and that morning’s egg or French toast from yesterday’s loaf to pair with maple syrup one of our uncles made from tapping trees. And if there was fresh fruit, we ate it cut up and took one for the road.

 

Georgette, who minded me as a child and I called “Gaga,” I would often beg to make me un oeuf, “her way,” which meant don’t tell mom it was cooked over easy and in bacon fat, which made it perfect, of course. And I loved to clean the yoke on the plate with warm buttered toast.

 

Mom packed our lunch fresh each day to go to school — always with a note of affection on your napkin that at 16 years old felt anything but cool. Snacks were limited to fresh fruit and vegetables she would cut up and have in the fridge in Tupperware, as we longed to go to friends’ houses after school instead, where we could gorge ourselves with that salt, sugar, crunch, fat combo that was far more interesting as a teenager than produce as a treat.

 

We never had to eat anything we didn’t want, but we had to try it once. We never had to finish our plate; we were told to eat until we were satisfied. We were familiar with all types of vegetables, fruit and fish. Milk came in glass half-gallon jugs from Byrne Dairy and when we were little, it was delivered fresh daily.

 

People always ask how I have so much energy and what do I eat? I’ll tell you what I don’t do: I don’t drink coffee, I don’t eat processed food of any kind, I limit my sugar to organic raw and natural forms infrequently, I don’t eat food without nutrition, I never eat anything from a microwave and if it isn’t nutrient dense, I skip it.

 

Stand up for your farming community buying local food from sources you know and follow the 70/30 rule of eating local, organically grown and mostly plant-based food — not from an industrial plant 70 percent of the time. If you opt out of processed food, you change the way you look and feel, you don’t obsess over calories and you crave the food you need to maintain good health.

 

Sleep, eat and exercise in the rhythm of nature and your eating habits will form naturally. Make local farms your source for food instead of the tempting supermarket where Madison Avenue is telling you what is healthy based on sales goals from the big business of food, not the importance of eating good food responsibly for the betterment of people.

 

If you ate today, thank a farmer. They will love you for it too! FarmOn!

 

To contact Tessa Edick, email tessa@farmonfoundation.org. Follower her on Twitter/IG @FarmOnFarmOn.

 

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