We weren’t at market this weekend for the second time this year, but this time because I had a special event to attend: a birthday party in Minnesota for my grandma, who just turned 100!
I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about the way my grandma has influenced and shaped me, and it’s clear that she has been such a role model all these years. There was always a garden out back to tend to (which remains today, even though it hasn’t been planted in years), and I can remember picking green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, and rhubarb, and then taking them to the kitchen and making zucchini bread, delicious strawberry-rhubarb desserts or jams, and fresh tomato salads. I remember her telling me that tomatoes didn’t like to be watered from above, and thinking, “That can’t be, what about when it rains?” But it turns out grandma was right, tomatoes remain a lot healthier when you are able to water them at the roots, rain notwithstanding! By her example, I learned not to waste what was still useful: leftovers were combined in soups and stews so that no food was thrown away, vegetable scraps and eggshells were collected and buried in the garden to return nutrients to the soil, rainwater ran off the roof into 55 gallon barrels and was used to water the garden and landscape plants, and even cereal boxes were cut down to size and turned into “to-go” boxes for the cookies that were invariably sent home with us after trips up to visit grandma and grandpa.
Vegetable gardening must run in the family, perhaps due to grandma’s abiding influence, as all sorts of home-grown produce showed up at our potluck lunch: cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, Hungarian yellow peppers, green beans. Zucchinis were given around freely, and advice was sought on how to control Japanese beetles. The growing season is so different in Minnesota, so it was funny to hear about recent CSA boxes containing cabbage and cauliflower, along with tomatoes and peppers.
The weekend has also provided an interesting contrast between Georgia and Minnesota agriculture. Despite feeling surrounded by agriculture in Georgia, and the fact that agriculture is the number one industry in Georgia, the state ranks 16th in agricultural production nationwide, whereas Minnesota ranks 6th (but Minnesota does have more land area). Driving along the Interstate 94 corridor provides a lot of insight into agricultural production in Minnesota. Not only is Minnesota the land of lakes, but also the land of corn and soybeans (the production of both ranks 4th nationally, and together account for nearly 50% of the state’s agricultural revenue), turkey houses (more turkeys are raised in Minnesota than any other state), and gray, weathered, often unused, silos. The silos are reminders of a day when small dairy farms were still viable. Milk production in Minnesota today ranks 8th nationwide, but happens at a much larger scale than before.
All in all, a great visit back, and fun to see Minnesota through the lens of farming.