Eating. And thanking a farmer.

By Jean Blish Siers *

Here’s a sobering fact: If it weren’t for farmers, most of us would starve. As much as my husband and I love to garden with our raised beds, our compost bins, and rain barrels, we would be dead. We’d either die of starvation, or kill each other fighting over our monster crop of three blueberries. So when you see those “No Farms No Food” bumper stickers, take them very, very seriously.

When I first started working with Society of St. Andrew, I felt a little guilty asking our wonderful farmers for tips on the best time to plant my second crop of okra, or how to start a sweet potato, or what was the best way to lime a tomato plant. After all, the more my garden succeeded, the less I would buy from the farmers’ stands after a gleaning. But they were so kind, giving me advice, and even tomato plants or seeds, or a variety of squash they thought would grow well for me.

My sad potato harvest - 2015

My sad potato harvest – 2015

These smart men and women obviously knew they had little to fear! Last year, I planted three large pots with seed potatoes. I hilled them, watered them, and tended them. At season’s end, they rewarded me with about ten pounds of delicious, creamy new potatoes. Not bad for a beginner.

This year, my harvest totaled four scrawny spuds, smaller than the chunks I’d planted as seeds. So I had to laugh when I stopped at Barbee Farms and bought a few potatoes the other day. Check out the pictures (penny added for perspective in the first photo; potatoes on same plate in second photo!) and you’ll see why I need my famers!

Barbee Farms potatoes

Barbee Farms potatoes – on the same plate as mine, above

This has been a tough year for farmers in North Carolina. Lots of baking heat, little rain, and constantly shifting market prices make it hard for them to make a living. Still, as my garden withered, here in the Charlotte area we gleaned more than 50,000 pounds of corn. We have gleaned grapes, tomatoes, and watermelons. We have filled many stomachs with our farmers’ wisdom and we are very grateful for each and every one of them!

So as the other bumper sticker says, “If you’ve eaten today, thank a farmer.” I know I do!

* Jean Blish Siers is SoSA’s Charlotte Area Gleaning Coordinator, and a regular contributor to this News & Events blog.