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Outsourcing is now an option

I grew the tomatoes on the upper shelf. The tomatoes on the lower shelf were part of my weekly vegetable pickup.

Technically, where I live is a food desert. The nearest grocery stores are about twelve miles away. A shocking number of rural people get most of their food these days from dollar stores such as Dollar General. Dollar General stores are everywhere. This makes it easier for me to believe the terrifying statistic that 70 percent of the American diet these days comes from ultra-processed foods.

It’s shocking how few rural people have vegetable gardens. And why should they? They don’t eat that stuff anymore. With transplants it’s a different story.

I’ve always had a garden, for better or for worse, in the fifteen years I’ve lived here. However, I do not enjoy — at all — summer gardening. It’s the heat, the humidity, the bugs, the ticks, the weeds, the briars, the gnats in the eyes. No matter how energetic my start in the spring, by summer the garden is always a wreck.

This summer I have an entirely new option. A young couple who live about two miles away (transplants from the Chicago area) have taught themselves to be superb gardeners. When they first moved here, they had day jobs. But this year they’ve quit their jobs and are making a living with their garden. Mostly they sell on Saturdays at an upscale farmer’s market in Greensboro. But, for a few local people like me, they started a weekly pickup of an assortment of vegetables — community supported agriculture. I was able to downsize my own garden this summer to a very manageable one row of nothing but tomatoes and basil, both of which are easy to grow and neither of which I’d be able to live without in summer.

These two young people taught themselves to garden, mostly by watching a lot of videos. In retrospect, I can see what a good idea that is. Old hands like me tend to garden the way we saw it done as children, and though we may experiment with newer methods, we never reach the state of the art. Whereas the garden I’m buying from this summer is a sight to behold. I’ve never seen anything like it other than at Monticello, or an abbey garden on Iona in Scotland. Almost half the garden is in flowers. They don’t till. Everything is perfectly mulched and well watered. The climbing system for such things as beans and cucumbers is ingenious, not to mention tall. They make their own compost, partly from the compostables they collect from their customers in Greensboro as part of the business. They even make enough wine for their own consumption, from native varieties of grapes.

There may well be some local young people — that is, young people who were born here and grew up here — who are interested in doing this kind of thing. But I don’t know of any. The reason for this, as I see it, has everything to do with the cultural decline of the rural deplorables. In a county that voted 78 percent for Trump in 2020, it’s safe to assume that 78 percent of the calories are coming from Dollar General and fast food from the nearest towns — Walnut Cove and Madison. These people — the people who are making America great again — eat their burgers and chicken sandwiches in the car and throw the bags, wrappers, and empty cups out the window onto the road.

Show me someone who lives otherwise, and the odds will be greater than 78 percent that that person is a liberal.

The nearby gardeners, at their booth at a Greensboro farmer’s market


  1. Henry Sandigo wrote:

    Oh the green beans look wonderful. I have a favorite green bean recipe. Almonds toasted ¼ cup, lemon zest 1-2 tsps, 1-2 shallot chopped, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 2-3 garlic gloves chopped. Parboil the green beans 4-5 minutes. Combine the other ingredients after sautéing shallot then garlic for a minute or two then add beans into pan sauté 1-2 min then serve – yum-my

    Tuesday, August 1, 2023 at 1:49 pm | Permalink
  2. Henry Sandigo wrote:

    I forgot to say the water while parboiling beans must be slightly salty to maintain color and taste

    Tuesday, August 1, 2023 at 1:51 pm | Permalink
  3. Chenda wrote:

    It’s very heartening to see rural businesses flourish, especially when they can serve local markets and offer an alternative to big corporations.

    Tuesday, August 1, 2023 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

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