Have you ever wondered in these last weeks how Tricia came to imagine a “Super Veggie Me” experiment and I came to say yes? A dozen other people had rejected her offer out of hand. “I can’t let go of ______ (fill in the blank). No. Absolutely no.” And then she asked me and I said yes. Here’s how that moment came to be.
John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.’
And so it is with this story but for the sake of brevity, I’ll start in 2006 when I attended the Third US Conference on Peak Oil in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I heard Richard Heinberg, already a hero of mine, on the current data on Peak Oil and our prospects from an energy rich future (nigh on to impossible). I heard Julian Darley about Peak Natural Gas, and Peak Coal and Peak Uranium. In other words, the old idea of substituting a plentiful resource for a dwindling one is going the way of leaches – an idea rendered quaint by evolving knowledge. If we don’t get it, it will all wind down. As in the current energy intensive way of life. When you put Climate Change on top of that, you see that not only have we used half the global supply of oil, we can’t burn the other half without burning ourselves up (see other post about burning Russian wheat crop).
A conversation in the halls with Julian make that vividly clear. Peak Oil is about the gas going into our tanks. Climate Change is about the co2 pollution coming out of our tailpipes. Between is an engine that can either run itself dry, choke itself to death or figure out a way of life that doesn’t involve so much driving.
We’re toast. An apt word, no?
I could barely breathe. I came home fairly panicked. In the two years I’d taken for simply healing from cancer, the conditions of the world had shifted, for the worse.
For the next year I looked for a way to address that by helping Whidbey Island become more resilient. The term I learned in Yellow Springs was “relocalize”. I studied models, from Local 2020 in Port Townsend to Willits Economic Localization in CA to a budding project in the UK called Transition Towns. Nine months later a woman from Totnes showed up in my dance class. And miracle of miracles, Kathryn Trenshaw was part of that very Transition Towns project. She spoke to a group of my friends- 22 in all, and we started Transition Whidbey that night.
A month later we hosted a big gathering to introduce the community to this model. 100+ people showed up and for part of the evening got into small interest groups.
Enter Tricia Beckner into my story. She was there and wandered over to the food interest group, met Pam Mitchell (an amazing market gardener on the island) and a big dream got sparked. Could she and her husband Kent convert part of the 5 acres they had just bought into a Pam Mitchell type CSA? Their land had belonged to a family with children at the level of an old woman and the shoe, and had been tended lovingly to raise cows for milk and meat plus a kitchen garden. Tricia and Kent felt themselves to be stewards of the property, not owners.
Lots of digging later she had something like 2 dozen perfectly formed beds and she, Pam and Laurie (a lawyer looking for some honest work) were selling veggies in the farmer’s market. After a season, this set up evolved into a partnership with just Pam and now she and Pam share the beds and each has a very large hoop house too.
Perhaps another Transition Whidbey event also influenced Tricia. It sure got my attention. In August of 2008 we started our Transition Whidbey Potlucks with a Purpose. I’d heard Pam talk about her back of the envelope calculations about what it would take to actually feed Whidbey Island from Whidbey Island.
The truth is, I deal with my fear by getting busy. Hope is a verb. It is action in the direction of your values. Yes, it is also faith. It is also trust that somehow the Uni-verse is all one poem and beautiful. Yes it is also paradoxically surrender — rather than trying to push the world around allowing one’s ego to soften and heart melt. But day to day, it’s patiently mending locally what’s getting broken globally. So I wanted Pam to give our community both hope and a boot in the butt about our ability to feed ourselves.
I don’t know who else got her conclusions that night, but I did. She said we had enough at the moment to feed ourselves … for a month… in August.
Back in Yellow Springs Richard Heinberg calmly told those assembled that less than 2% of Americans are farmers, compared to 41% in 1900. We’ll need to get back up to 20% farmers, he said, like round about yesterday. All that was “gotcha by the throat” statistics to me though. Pam’s talk brought it closer to home. And now I am home, eating within a 10 mile radius of home, and it’s clear to me viscerally the pickle we are collectively in. Make that millions of pickles and maybe we could eat.
So all this data has been eating at me ever since.
On a parallel track, speaking of eating, I’ve been on my lifelong hunt for a way to fit back into my wedding dress (well, I don’t have it anymore, but fitting back into anything from my 20’s). I’ve been a “diet-er”. “On a diet” or “breaking my diet” or “blowing off my diet I don’t care after menopause we all look this way.” My relationship with food was love-hate. Desire and fear. Craving and aversion. Well, doctor, it was complex – but whose isn’t?
Then a year ago I was introduced to a diet that actually did turn back the clock. I watched friend after friend just sort of melt back into “wedding dress” size. I watched and watched and they didn’t seem to gain back the weight they lost. So I decided to give it a try after all those years in Dante’s Weight Inferno (Abandon all hope ye who enter here). I was so happy – it worked 🙂
Cut back to Tricia and Kent watching a Netflix crazy documentary about a guy who’d taken Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me experiment to dopey ends. He smoked dope every day for a month.
“Well,” Tricia said to Kent, “I wonder if someone would do “Super Veggie Me” – eat only from her garden for a month.”
“Why don’t you do it?” Kent asked.
“No, I can’t. I can’t give up ________ (fill in the blank).”
But I could. I was just finishing up the strict protocol with very limited food when I bumped into Tricia at the 4th of July Maxwelton Beach potluck and parade. Would I “limit myself” to eating tons of good veggies and eggs and maybe a chicken from her garden? “Limiting food,” I thought, “sweetheart, you don’t know from limiting food.” Saying yes at that moment was simple as pie. So I went back and got some more and Tricia and I began our journey together to this moment.