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It’s Not Just About the FoodPrint

Food & Farming | September 10, 2010 | By Janice Benson

This fall, things seem different for me. A bad accident and many long, painful days recovering from it have given me an appreciation of people like never before.

As I turn the calendar to September, things look different to me.

Yes, apples are coming in, the days are getting shorter, and I’m noticing the usual seasonal changes at this time of year. But this year is different.

This year I’m turning the calendar after two months of unexpected bed rest, at the height of summer, in the midst of many plans, and at the peak so many of my favorite things here in Northern Michigan.  After a clumsy mishap in the kitchen that left me with severe burns on my foot, I spent the best part of this summer in emergency rooms, hospital rooms, and my living room.

Suddenly, my perspective had to make a shift. Instead of making plans for camping trips and family events, I was thrilled to simply make it through each day.

And though this was difficult for me, it was a chance to gain perspective and a deep appreciation for things like never before.  Life completely slowed down and I had nothing but time to listen and reflect about the people and things around me. It was a chance to notice the little things, like conversations and connections to our work, and the bigger things, that people said and did that kept me going through some long, painful hours.

I smiled as nurse Maris told me all about her amazing garden and how she tries to eat as locally as possible.  I laughed as doctors remembered that it was my Thanksgiving Dinner that put my father in the hospital two years ago. Or so he told them! (You know those free-range turkeys do it every time!) I was awestruck as co-workers and friends brought me thoughtful soups and breads and fresh local produce to help get me back on my feet.  I was moved by the cards, the messages, and the home remedies that folks sent to wish me well.

I savored the apricots and Pleasanton cookie that made it’s way to my hospital room! I watched as bicyclists rode by with baskets full of goodies fresh from the farmers market. I cringed as a woman at physical therapy said, “I don’t care where the blueberries come from, as long as they’re cheap!” and I cheered as her 80-year old friend said, “Well, I’mgoing to the u-pick farm for mine!”

I watched my own garden, from a distance, and at my husband, trying so hard to keep things watered and thriving in the summer heat, AND keep me thriving, too!

I had fun explaining to curious medical staff as they asked, “Now, what do you do?”… and even more fun as they started connecting the dots…”Oh yeah, I’ve seen that guide!”… “Yeah! We sometimes get local stuff in the cafeteria!”… “How would I become a member of a CSA?”

Local food is what we do. But it’s not just about the food. Local food is about community. Knowing your farmer, knowing your neighbor-and being a part of a terrific community, like this one.

I have a lot of gratitude as I turn the calendar to September this year. I’m thankful for my husband, my friends and co-workers, my doctors and nurses, my farmers, and for all the folks that make up this great community we live in.  So here’s to a new month, a new season, and a whole lot of gratitude!

Janice Benson coordinates the Michigan Land Use Institute’s Taste the Local Difference program. Reach her atjanice@mlui.org.