Let my faithful blue heeler bitch, Lupe, spend the night in the house on Friday night, since son was spending the weekend at a friend's house. The first thing she did in the kitchen was start cleaning, eating all the food particles that my son and I had squandered to the floor. When that job was done, she sat under my chair, next to the heater vent.
Our heater is one of those outdoor wood furnaces with the boiler and the pump in the basement that circulates hot water through a radiator with a squirrel cage fan blowing the heat through ducts like in the oil or coal deals. You see a bunch of those kinds in these parts, now, whereas when I was growing up people were still using oil, coal, or else had woodstoves in the basement. I guess they're an improvement--anyway, Lupe was thrilled lay in front of that warm heat blast. Normally she's not allowed in the house, but I was preparing to drive a bunch of lettuce and carrots up to Indy for the weekend, and wanted to let her spend the last night with me.
The next morning, I left her home to guard the farm, and I drove the Ford Ranger up to Indianapolis, traversing the landscape on backroads that either run straight east-west or north-south except where the ridges between river valleys break up the monotony, admiring all the century-old barns similar to our own that have been properly cared for thanks largely to the hills that break up the square fields. In other, flatter farm regions like the Central Valley of California, or the absolutely pancake plains of northern Indiana and Illinois, farmers plant five or six thousand acres of corn and soybeans, and have leveled off most of the original homesteads in the name of efficiency.
I consider the original barns and homesteads to be the very picture of efficiency and sustainability, combined with aesthetics, what is absolutely lacking in "modern" agriculture, and I drive slowly down the country roads, admiring the barns kept up mostly these days for sentimental reasons. I am convinced that these barns will once again be useful for sensible, small farms, long after the modern confinement facilities have rendered themselves obsolete. After the weekend on the north side of Indianapolis, I am more convinced than before.
The city, or more accurately, people in the city, are rapidly gaining interest in where their food comes from. I have observed the City of Indianapolis since the early 1990's, when attending college there, when the demographics consisted mostly of black neighborhoods, poor white hoods, middle class white hoods, and upper class white hoods.
Complain about NAFTA all you want, and all the evil it did to workers in Mexico and North Carolina, etc., but one thing I can say for the treaty's consequences is the dining in Indianapolis improved dramatically between 1996, when I and my first ex headed west for northern California, and 2001, when my second ex actually dared to leave her Mendo homeland and spend the summer gardening with me on East 46th street. We dined at authentic Mexican and Guatemalan restaurants, an act which would have been virtually impossible as recently as 1993. That summer, 2001, Cassandra and I were one of only two organic vendors at the Broad Ripple farmers' market, the hippest part of that city along the west fork of the White River.
Over the past weekend, I spoke with chefs in half a dozen packed restaurants that now serve mostly local and organic food. I made some deals, some contacts, learned that other farmers are already supplying lettuce, free range eggs, etc. The growth of small, mostly organic farms in this state has been EXPONENTIAL in the ten years since Cassandra and I represented two of maybe four.
And maybe I'm just getting older, pushing forty, but I could swear that since people are clearly eating better, they are looking better. Of course it was Halloween weekend and they were dressing to kill along the river.