Thursday, October 4, 2007

Seeds of Change in the West

Through sunny skies and passed pecan orchards, we have arrived in this thriving little hamlet bustling with the rigor and the vivacious spirit of a large city. We are in Marfa, Texas, tucked in the back couches of a coffee shop after being on the deserted highways and old ocean floor of the Guadalupe Mountains.

We have 15 gallons of veg oil in our trunk that we look forward to filtering, although the striking sun of the plains blew thick with storm clouds and we await another day when the heated sun will ease our process.

We just finished the satchels full of tomatoes, kale, arugula, sweet bell peppers and radishes from Seeds of Change farm tour. We spend an entire afternoon there. We were welcomed by their generous staff, and invited to view, wander, look and collect. Seeds of Change has been in operation for some years now. Mars (you know the candy bar) bought them out and now are the most financially stable investors that keep Seeds of Change afloat. Luckily, Jackie Mars, the wife of the Mr., truly supports the cultivation of a sustainable culture. Sustainability being better than organic and fair trade, because it encompasses the entire means from which the ethics of a company should implement alternative measures.

We began our tour identifying and harvesting seeds. Each row was carefully labeled and available for identifying. Joe was hard at work, pleased to be extracting sunflowers stalks and jovial in his regard to the pleasant nature of the company. Seeds of Change runs this research farm to produce quantities of seed for drying and selling, as well as to grow varieties that visitors view from their extension collection. Farmers all throughout the US are supported in part by their contribution of providing seeds to their 250,000 catalogue patrons. These seed growing farmers often additionally gather income from running a CSA to their local community. Inside the seed lab, are multiple large industrial sized equipment. Seeds that have casings and wind propellers like the gentle fliers of a dandelion are carefully placed through equipment to process just the seed alone.

We walked through gardens rows and greenhouses, tasting and choosing. How delightful for us to be able to taste the variety that we wish to grow, to be able to eat three different types of kale and write down the ones that are intoxicated with flavor. Would you ever think that the seeds packets that you choose from the hardware store. 3 for 99 cents would be any less than good. Is it more the success of being able to grow them? So at what stage does a farmer or a lay man desire the variety of a better tomato or a heartier lettuce. Who ever knew there was more than cherry, roma and vine tomatoes? When does the education begin? Just this last year, I grew 6 different types of lettuce, and to my surprise visitors were shocked! 4 more varieties than they have ever seem outside of the grocery store.

When did the grocery store begin to become the school of agriculture? How will we ever know that there is more out there? Does having a variety always have to become a luxury for high-end markets?

Having finished the last of our local produce, except from the sizzling hot chili pepper that we can eat only one at a time, we emark to the next town, San Antonio and Austin Texas, to meet a friend and explore the inner working of an urban oasis, maybe we will even see Willie Nelson?

As for now, our writings are more of daily occurance than of theory, in a time when we are developing views of progress, mutilations of land and intoxication of creeks and the over chlorination of public water, we are stayin bright. We will seek out the aromas of local and homemade food, either with our campstove or with the smell and seeking eye of a homemade Mexican food restaurant, or a torterillia, providing the freshest. Stay tuned! The west has given us many gifts of seeds, good new friends, welcoming cities, generous mechanics and great theories and thoughts.