Spirit Hills Winery grows all its own vegetables organically. Philippa has been put in charge of the big vegetable garden, and sometimes she gets me helping with the weeding. In particular I have been helping to treat the ‘Leafminer’ which are growing on the Spinach and Beetroot plants (see photos above) by killing the larvae and removing the eggs. The larvae live under the surface of the leaf, and when you scratch the top layer back, you can see them as you squash them between your fingers.
The thing I find amazing about this process is the need to touch each single leaf of every plant. It reflects a level of connection I have never had with my food before. And in addition to the obvious advantages of not using pesticides (see here for an example of the mess this is leading to), it has also made me think about the way traditional farming develops a connection with where you live and what you eat. The process fosters an intimacy with the land and the food it produces.
In John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath farmers are bullied off their land by the Bank to be replaced by the machines of large corporations. These corporations are accountable to no one and no one can control them. In order for these corporations to turn a profit the Earth suffers, the people suffer, but none of this matters to the corporations. Picking off all the larvae is extremely time consuming, but while we might gain time by industrialising our food production and using pesticides, it is interesting to consider what we may lose. Steinbeck puts it well in the passage below;
“The driver sat in his iron seat and he was proud of the straight lines he did not will, proud of the tractor he did not own or love, proud of the power he could not control. And when that crop grew, and was harvested, no man had crumbled hot clods in his fingers and let the earth sift past his fingertips. No man had touched the seed, or lusted for the growth. Men ate what they had not raised, had no connection with the bread. The land bore under iron, and under iron gradually died; for it was not loved or hated, it had no prayers or curses.” DV