First published in Franklin Journal
This morning I poured my coffee, transformed it into a mug of mocha and then with a just a slurp of its deliciousness, decided it was not mocha coffee I wanted. I wanted to go out for a run. No worries, coffee would be welcomed when I returned. Such craziness on a crisp, Maine autumn morning. I quickly dressed and headed out. As I ran, I listened to the cawing of the three crows that seemed to drag me onward, in direct contrast to my complaining muscles that had thought to have had a slower and warmer start to the day. The chattering of the chipmunks and the chirping of the chickadees lead me to wonder if they thought I was nuts coming out in the cold. Or were they happy to see me and share with them this beautiful day?
I mused on apples which hung gingerly on tree limbs and the morning frost protectively blanketing what was left of random seeds. I noted Mother Nature not being finished sharing her bounty. Eating and gathering, birds and squirrels were making short work of the seeds. No doubt deer would at some point, eagerly feast on the remaining apples. Who knows what other goings on would transcribe summer leftovers into bounty for a predicted normal, harsh winter ahead. This part of nature’s cycle, the part that we might otherwise think with some amount of sadness, as the dying of summer was really a celebration. An exclamation point. Mother Nature had done her part to provide. To respect and honor her, nothing would be laid to loss.
As I continued running, I had thought on writing my fourth in a series of five posts on food loss and waste. I knew it would focus on loss. Food loss relates to production and has possibility of recovery, as in the field or kitchen. Food waste is more closely identified with throwing away edible food. Perhaps, I should write about solutions for better packaging and distribution opportunities or general food policy. However, this morning, I am not drawn to being academic. After all, around me woodland creatures were celebrating summer’s bounty right down to the last morsel. Yes, this would be my inspiration.
Now as I write and think on the idea of food loss, I think of decomposing, forgotten pumpkins dotting otherwise, harvested fields. Fish lost to landfills. I think of layers of packaged eggs, which when one breaks and leaks down to other eggs, is considered to have contaminated the entire stock and now needs to be destroyed. Much food loss can be attributed to issues of processing, distribution and packaging. This is food that will not make it to the mouths of hungry people. It is food that will contribute to an increased carbon footprint. Today, my experience with nature leads me to think these losses, with their spillover effects, such as hunger and carbon footprints, do not celebrate and honor farmers and fishers.
On my morning run, my muscles had complained about the cold. Yet, I chose to be out. Farmers and fishers don’t often have the option of whether to be out in the elements. They brave harsh winds and burning rays of sun, in trade for other days of gentle breezes and cooling clouds. Cows need milking. Hay needs cutting. Lobster traps need hauling. Growing and harvesting food is not for the faint hearted. It is an everyday commitment. I have to wonder, if when farmers see pumpkins rotting in the field or fishers eye fish rotting on decks, do they consider they are not appreciated for the contribution they bring to the food chain. Do they wonder if what they are doing is for naught?
As the birds and animals on my run today suggested, let’s beat back food loss in celebration of the industrious work farmers and fishers put into food production. It means investing in packaging research and development. It means food policies that support equitable and efficient means of distribution and are sensible and sustainable. Working innovatively and in consideration of old and new practices, there are alternatives to less food loss which will be valuable to growers and eaters for sustenance and our economy. I believe the first step to understanding value is to recognize and yes, celebrate steps in the process of growing food. And that means, at the vary base level, celebrating our farmers and fishers.