In June, when we gather up trugs, hats, long light shirts and bottles full of water, and travel to a local farm to spend a sweet, bright morning picking strawberries, I think about the act of connecting with our food.
We need to feel connected to our food. Somehow, we want to know its source, where it likes to grow, the shape of its leaves, its harvest season. To know it with all our senses, so that a moment of light and heat tells us – strawberry time. That intimacy with food is also inherent in the connection to the grower, trusting that they are treating the plants well, responsible for their land, the earth, the water. Everything is taken care of in meeting the desire we have to eat good food, clean and unspoilt by chemicals or genetic messing about. A good, trustworthy relationship to the grower, to the plant, to the earth, this all breeds health. Doesn’t it? It nourishes everyone.
Then! The value of each berry that increases with the investment of picking it oneself! Never mind if we had tended the plant ourselves, nurtured runners and mulched soil. Later, to know ways to prepare it, preserve it, enjoy it. All of that knowledge feels a lot like self-reliance. A pot of strawberry jam was never so precious, eaten with such reverence, as the ones we’ve made from hand-picked berries.
If alienation from food leads to mindless consumption and waste, and if industrial, chemical-ridden production, picked too early and transported too far, is a cause of illness throughout our bodies and our farms, then a morning’s strawberry-picking at a trusted local farm is a radical act and a healing one.
For radical political action, berrying feels simple and old-fashioned. We are embedded in familiarity and romance at once, out on the farm. The sweetness of berries found hidden in the leaves, the weight of the trug filling up, the ancient satisfaction of crouching in a field and harvesting. Sunny faces! Rosy fingertips! For the children, strawberry-picking is simply a glorious morning, much anticipated, with delicious yields, and that is enough.