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“In order to plant you have a have a free spirit,” my neighbor said to me recently. Something about the statement resonated. I am a born and raised city dweller. Working with the earth, honoring her seasons and cycles, knowing what grows and when it grows never seemed like a necessity. The supermarket carried peaches and apples all year round. carrots, greens and broccoli were always on the shelves. Organic? Local? Farming? Huh?

Last year I managed two farmers’ markets. During that time I ate what was in season, tried vegetables and fruit that I’d never heard of, tasted fresh tomatoes, took home greens that didn’t pass out as soon as they hit the refrigerator, and saw what broccoli looks like before all its leaves are cut away. It was an incredible education. I worked with the very people who planted, harvested, transported and  sold the food my neighbors and I were eating. I was amazed by their hard work, in awe of the flavors of the food, and saddened by how divorced I had been from the entire process of how food gets from the soil to our plates.

What does this have to do with herbs? Well, so many of our ailments have their roots in the supermarket. When I started paying more attention to what I ate, my first rule was that if I couldn’t pronounce something on the label, I’d put it back. Now I tend to say that if it has a label, I probably won’t pick it up.

Having children makes me even more conscious of the foods I buy. How can I expect my child to behave in a classroom if she had a bowl full of sugar with milk for breakfast? Why are people shocked at childhood obesity and early onset of pubery when the children are being fed regular doses of hormones in their meat? And what about the drinks labeled juice? Just water, high fructose corn syrup and red #40. This stuff is piled high on the aisles of the supermarkets in my neighborhood.

I’ve watched folks in my family turn to doctors for help although healing could have been found in the kitchen. Maybe the cure was at the farmers’ market. The prescription might have been planting seeds in a community garden.

A few weeks ago I was in a greenhouse carefully planting basil and bok choy seeds. I walked back and forth getting water from a creek to water newly emerging plants. It felt like a homecoming. That night I ate kale and bok choy harvested from a friend’s garden. She is able to feed her family because she has a close relationship with the earth and this seems to me like one of the ultimate freedoms.

So this year while I vow to keep learning about herbs and have my hands in the earth more, I also want to figure out how to help improve the health of  my community. My local farmers’ market is located between two fast food joints. I guess there is more than one way to plant a seed.

How do you plant seeds of health in your community?

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