As we approach the Fourth of July, it is in the context of our Constitution that we usually think of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; however, in a new book, “Founding Gardeners,” Andrea Wulf suggests a different context.
The author argues that their common love of gardening and farming shaped their vision of America. They envisioned an agrarian republic of industrious citizens whose connection to the county was based in working its soil. Mountains, forests and prairies all became invested with patriotism as the new nation endeavored to create a national identity, to see itself as strong, self reliant and fertile and very much apart from the ancient art and culture of Europe.
Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory over the objections of the Federalists, who thought the nation already had too much land, was predicated on this vision of an agrarian republic. Adams’ tour of English gardens just prior to the colonies’ declaration of independence taught him that the English had planted them full of American species, thus making it patriotic to replicate the practice in America. Madison’s role as father of the Constitution is known. Almost unknown is his role as father of American environmentalism. He was first to recognize that nature is a fragile ecological system and to use the bully pulpit to convince the new American citizen that he must protect and preserve the resource that he was dependent upon. Unfortunately, the very vastness and seemingly endless territory that became America worked against the idea of conservation becoming rooted in the national conscience.
Today, fortunately and hopefully not too late, we are returning to these ancient and patriotic practices of our founding fathers. All across America, Americans are returning to the soil, on roof tops, in back yards, in community gardens, in greenhouses, on small acreage, consuming the fruit of their own labor, giving it to friends, selling it at road side stands, and in farmers markets.
And so we arrive at the Pagosa Farmers Market which will commence its 12-week run on July 9, appropriately enough, following our fun, small-town Independence Day celebration. The market will run every Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and will include local produce, and products, and lunch from 11 to 1 based on locally produced natural meat. Intermittently, music, entertainment and kid’s activities round out the offerings.
The market is sponsored by Southwest Organization for Sustainability. Organizers invite the public to support this small market with grand ideas of becoming a year-round source of organic produce. As with all economic endeavors, supply will strive to meet demand. Every purchase is an invitation to produce and one day, consumers will be buying quality for the same or lower prices than they might pay elsewhere for lesser quality. And the dollars stay in the community rather than contributing to corporate profits.
Admittedly, shopping at the farmers market is not as convenient as one stop shopping at the local super market and it may not be quite as cheap; on the other hand it has several important advantages. The produce is hours away from a growing state and therefore tastes fresh and flavorful is free of pesticides and retains nutritional value; shopping at the market becomes a community activity as folks see folks they know and stop to visit; it’s a venue for local small growers to engage in an economic activity; it is a first step toward establishing agricultural self-sufficiency in a small mountain community which is currently dependent upon one corporate outlet which has shown no interest in listening to the community and one small market that does exhibit that interest; and finally, in the Jeffersonian sense it is patriotic. Happy Fourth of July!