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April 21, 2021

Okay, yes, it’s true. I am obsessed with salad. I just returned home to Haines from a month in my natal Western Massachusetts. I grew up in the fertile Connecticut River valley, where there are hundreds upon hundreds of beautiful farms producing myriad amazing products from pastured meats and eggs, to grains and raw milk and cheeses of every sort. There are farms producing fibers for spinning and weaving, vegetables for storage and for fermentation. Orchards full of apples, peaches, pears. Beekeepers making golden honey. Fresh spring-dug parsnips. Raw goat yogurt and ice cream. You could get dizzy trying to count the many sugar houses boiling sweet, clear maple tree sap into syrup. But what was the one thing I decided to stow in my checked bag upon my return to Alaska in mid-April? Four pounds of fresh, organically-grown spinach from one of my favorite small Massachusetts farms of course! 

The farm grows salad greens and other produce, in addition to cow’s milk products, pastured eggs, and their own wheat for their amazing baked goods— all sold at their farm store. Sure, I got some of those other goodies while I was there too. But, what I am now wondering is this: is it normal to choose the giant bag of salad, of all the things, to take with you on a 5,000 mile journey? Certainly other farm products are better travelers, more rugged, smaller. Reflecting further, I found that this is actually fairly tame behavior for myself relative to what I have been willing to do for a really good salad in Haines, Alaska. I was willing to work for years to move a forest, largely by hand, to grow salad. I am willing to protect said salad (and other veggies) from moose and bears. I am willing to toil in the rain, the snow, the heat and cold— to grow delicious salad.

But there are some things I am not willing to do for salad: I am not willing to use poisonous herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides to grow my crops. I am not willing to use synthetic fertilizers. I am not willing to potentially pollute my local aquatic environment–where salmon spawn, and humans and other animals drink–to grow salad. 

I consider myself lucky to be living in a place that—though lacking in the rich and wonderful array of small farms that grace the hills and valleys of my first home—still has abundant fresh clean water, air, and soil. Many farms in the places I was visiting grow organically, but many do not. In such a beautiful landscape, or any landscape, I find it incredible that it remains legal, though regulated, to apply agricultural poisons to fields and orchards. I hope that the tide continues to turn in favor of organic agriculture as more and more people learn about the effects of chemical agriculture on the environments of Earth.

Here, at this home I have made in Haines, to be a part of a fledgling agricultural community, wherein all commercial growers (there are around 6-8 other commercial vegetable farms here) are using solely organic methods, is truly incredible and inspiring! We may not yet have local production of the diversity we need and love like other regions in the U.S. do, but we do have freedom from firsthand exposure to chemical agriculture. That said, I believe our food choices connect us to far-away places, and therefor to the problems of chemical agriculture. Just because we live in a beautiful place doesn’t absolve us from responsibility to protect other places. At least that’s how I feel. 

So on this Earth Day 2021 I am grateful to have yet again travelled to see firsthand the juxtaposition of places, and to have come back down to grasp that all places are connected through how we humans treat them. Our chemicals move about the planet, oblivious to our political boundaries. I believe our food choices matter on the small, local scale, as well as on the grand scale.

Happy Earth Day 2021! And hooray for salad. 

(Photos: Salad pom-poms 2015 and Salad Sisters 2018)