This weekend I had a great birthday party where Lorinda and I invited four couples over to brainstorm what the Napa Valley might look like in forty or so years. We invited a couple that is involved in solar energy, one that has an energy-medicine business, one that has a retail photography shop here in town and one that is involved in internet promotions. Unfortunately, Father Mac from our local Episcopal Church was not able to attend.
We had a very lively discussion. The invitees were all across the board when it came to predicting the future problems and solutions we might face. From apocalyptic destruction to brave new worlds of technological amazement, the discussions bounced around the room. The only conclusion we all agreed upon was that our consciousness as consumers needs to include the ‘true cost’ of the foods and other products we consume.
That brings me, this Monday morning, to the topic of this entry. The tomato. Over the last three years the Inn has developed some pretty impressive vegetable and herb gardens. We are mostly growing tomatoes and peppers since I love making salsas for wine service in the afternoon and to slather over the egg dishes the next morning. This time of year I even make a V-8 type juice for breakfast from these vine-ripened fruits and veges that have never even seen a refrigerator. This year we are also harvesting cucumbers, zucchini, melons, pumpkins, mint, and various other herbs.
So, what is the ‘true cost’ of a vine-ripened, organically and locally grown, never refrigerated tomato in comparison to a machine-picked, chemically grown and ripened, refrigerator-stored, tomato that could have been packed and trucked hundreds or thousands of miles? Tastewise there is no comparison. So, being a devout hedonist, that is a huge cost to me. But what of the other costs? Storing and moving the water for corporate farming is a big deal. Manufacturing and transporting pesticides and fertilizers cannot be very pleasant to our world. Building, maintaining and running cultivating and harvesting machinery have similar costs. The processing, packaging and transporting the fruit adds to the impact. What happens to the irrigation water, laden with chemicals as it leaches into the ground? Then there are the nutritional and health costs of the choices we make for our bodies.
Don’t even get me started on the horror stories I have heard about the production of cotton. They make me want to run around naked, screaming.
I certainly don’t have answers to any of these questions, and I am not going to immediately stop shopping at Costco, but as a very small cog in an unbelievably large machine, I am continuing to burrow, looking for a way to leave my children with a better world than I currently envision.