Since I moved to rural northeast Pennsylvania almost 13 years ago, the landscape and foodscape around me has changed, for the worse and for the better. The loss of farmland is dramatic and ongoing. Since 1930, the recent Assessment Report of the Lehigh Valley Local Food Economy states that the Valley has lost 80 percent of its farms and 53 percent of its farmland. All the while new farmers’ markets, organic farms, and CSAs have sprung up, offering vegetables such as kale and rutabagas that were exotic specialty produce a decade ago.
Most of these places are still a good drive away but within a 35-mile loop I can now pick up cheese from happy cows and organic raw milk to make ricotta, fabulous orchard fruit from June through October, locally grown mushrooms, meat, chicken, and free-range eggs.
In my immediate surroundings people who garden for food are unfortunately still far and few. Inspiring homeowners to put their money and efforts into a vegetable garden rather than into chemicals for a manicured lawn often feels like an uphill battle. Yet it all comes down to whether you want to look at the glass half-empty or half-full. When my Master Gardener group first held Field to Fork, an event that is all about learning how to grow your own vegetables, in August 2011, there were less than 40 attendees. In August 2013, we held the event for a second time at Hope Hill Lavender Farm, (also a new addition to the area), and 180 people came. So the glass is slowly filling after all!
An important part of boosting the locavore movement is telling people what’s happening. I was excited when I heard last fall that Fig, an innovative online and print magazine for local communities, was launching in Bethlehem. Now I am even more excited that I am contributing to Fig Bethlehem as one of their food bloggers. About gardening, of course, and everything that goes with it.
I will certainly continue My Gardener’s Table. How could I not? There will always be gardening failures and successes, and recipes to share.