For most of us around our area of Bedford, New York – and even around the country – the urge to eat can easily be addressed with the drop of a remote and a quick trip to the fridge. But that doesn’t mean we have true food security. Once the breadbasket of the world, America is now a net importer of food, and therein lies the central focus of a local organization called InterGenerate.
Utilizing the rich resource of land we’ve been endowed with is a start that can impact us on many different levels. At the forefront, in an area where young mothers, families new to the region and childless couples report feelings of isolation, InterGenerate cofounder Peggy Clarke says all gardening projects will have a community building component.
Directly indigenous to Mt. Kisco, the Marsh sanctuary will play host to a 60 plot garden – of which 45 will be individually maintained. The remaining 15 will help serve to keep everyone as part of the larger whole. “Every member will be obligated to spend a small amount of time working on the communal plot,” she says, and this will provide food donations to the Inter-faith Food Pantry.
Additionally, built in community days will allow members to learn from each other’s experiences, while the teaching garden at the John Jay Homestead will bring the learning to a higher level. “Each student purchases a space in the class that runs from May to September, or for one half- season session” she says.
Of course, members do get a social return on the fruits of their labor. “We will have harvest meals with some regularity to bring the community together,” she says.
Otherwise, with many schools ahead of the curve in this regard, InterGenerate is hoping to engender interest from local churches. Having received Preliminary Fellowship as a Unitarian Universalistminister, she hopes this gives her an extra avenue to inspire congregations to use their lands to grow vegetables with and for their members.
That approach lends itself easily to InterGenerate’s intergenerational aspirations. Last summer’s once weekly pairings of one child and one adult at the Bedford Audubon showed how an important void can be filled as extended family has found itself separated in today’s world. “Each participant had a chance to work closely with a member of a generation with whom they have little contact,” she says.
The staging also demonstrated a clear elevation in the attention span of the children involved. Hands on experience taught them where our food comes from, co-planting and basic growing techniques, and to their parents surprise, she says, “It was a roaring success.” So much so, that they’ve doubled the session this year and added an After-Camp program located at Thistlethwaithe Learning Center in Cross River.
But the sun does not set on their activities when the growing season comes to an end – especially since it didn’t in the time before the refrigerator farming we know of today. Community days for members and the public will instruct on canning, pickling and preserving, she says, “and all the home activities that got people through the winter.”
In turn, InterGenerate hopes their efforts will encourage people to hit the local farmer’s markets and begin their own gardens.
Looking larger, she hopes people will at least spend more time considering some of the facts that go along with the convenience of our supermarkets. For instance, American caught salmon is frozen and shipped to China for processing – wasted round trip carbon foot prints included – as well as the horrible conditions that accompany the workers who provide much of our tomatoes. Making us all accountable when we shop without conscience, she says, “This past December, the 7th slave ring was disbanded, liberating the 1000th person who had been caught in slavery on our farms.”
“I could go on and on,” she says, but she’s realistic about considerations of that magnitude and InterGenerate. “We’re not big enough to make that kind of impact,” she says. All least not yet, she concludes.
Rich Monetti interview of Peggy Clarke