No matter where she goes, Barbara Damrosch can find herself talking with someone about the rewards of growing fresh, wholesome foods at home and becoming less dependent on other sources.
It’s a lifestyle that was popular in the 1960s and ’70s. Today a natural food movement has re-emerged as the nation’s ecology and health force us to tally things being lost to convenience.
Nutrients and fuel use can be tradeoffs when foods travel long distances to reach us. Pesticides and food waste also take a toll.
As measures of the pros and cons continue, many people are going off grid. Others are puttering in the soil for the joy – and the flavor – of a home-based harvest.
“There is a new awareness of the value of homegrown food,” said Damrosch, who will be in Charlotte for the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show to share tips on gardening. “We’re trying to make it easier for people to get out there and grow their own food.”
Organizers of the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show said Damrosch’s lifestyle will resonate with guests.
“… Barbara is an expert on both living well and growing organically,” said Mardee Woodward, executive show manager. “This makes her a perfect fit for garden enthusiasts and foodies.”
Damrosch’s husband, Eliot Coleman, has been farming in Maine for more than 45 years. Coleman, 74, started what is now Four Season Farm in 1968.
Today, the operation occupies less than two acres but provides enough food for a farm stand that is open in June through September, a mobile stand for farmers markets, as well as a year-round wholesale business.
He shares his expertise at extending the growing season with home cooks, chefs and various TV audiences, so they can have access to local food for more of the year, as he does.
Damrosch, 70, came to the farm in 1991, the year she married Coleman. She has emerged as a champion of gardening as a central part of family and community life, even as big corporate farms grew and overshadowed small, local agriculture such as theirs.
Their family garden is a showcase of the plant diversity that is considered vital to a healthy ecosystem but frightfully lacking in large-scale agriculture. They grow old, heirloom varieties alongside newer hybrids.
The couple’s newest book, “Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook,” includes pictures of the gardens, growing tips and recipes that Damrosch created with produce from their fields.
“The deep green of the spinach and bluish cast of the broccoli leaves tell us we’ve fed these plants well, and that they will feed us well in return,” the couple write in the book.
In her weekly column for The Washington Post, called “A Cook’s Garden,” Damrosch shares pictures of her home-grown vegetables and fruits with the pride of a parent posting her babies’ pictures.
At a time when digital automation makes so many chores seem effortless, the prerequisite of toiling for weeks or months to grow one’s own food seems too costly for many people, especially when a supermarket is on the way home.
Damrosch says that even the smallest plot can be an abundant source of food for much of the year. The book includes tips for making gardening manageable and efficient, even for those with limited time.
For Damrosch, the garden is a path to better flavor, better nutrition and perhaps hope that more of our great-grandchildren will want to know the magical flavor of food grown in the backyard.
The transformation of pretty herbs and tomatoes to food for the table, as illustrated in the book, is perhaps the best argument that we are missing something special when we don’t harvest from our land or at least buy from a neighboring farm.
“People are looking for stuff that’s real and not diluted with chemicals,” Damrosch said. “It doesn’t taste the same.”