After what felt like an endless week of high heat, high humidity, and daily smog warnings, today’s clear blue sky and pleasant breezes made for just about perfect conditions for a trip out of town – carpooling in a fuel-efficient vehicle, of course – to pick raspberries.
While there are many things that make me happy, opportunities to escape the city and breathe fresh air are pretty high up on my list. There’s something really appealing about resting my eyes, gazing at green hills that roll on into the horizon instead of right angles of steel and pavement. Sometimes I forget how much chronic strain I feel in my shoulder and neck muscles (which I believe is a result of the rushed, hustle and bustle pace of city life, despite my best efforts at resisting this lifestyle) until I get a chance to take a few deep breaths of clean air and find the tension slowly recede. The countryside is my spa!
Today’s little expedition reinforced my already strong belief in the value of harvesting fruit and veggies for immediate consumption, baking, cooking, and preserving. Sure, you may end up spending more money than if you had visited your local grocer: farmers have to charge you not only for what you pick but also for what you eat in the field, and you have to factor in the cost of fuel (and unforeseen expenses such as splurging on freshly baked pie). But think of what you’re getting in return! The freshest possible produce, a reduction in stress, a generally fun time, and bonus: a sense of pride and satisfaction for having supported your local economy. What a deal!
Obviously, while I’m a big proponent of heading out to pick your own tasty berries, it’s not a good idea to do this on a regular basis. Mother Nature probably prefers it when one truck carries the fruit to supply a number of centrally located stores, rather than having the downtown-dwelling masses drive a one-hour round trip in their cars every weekend. Concerned that the big-box grocery chain doesn’t offer a fresh selection? Then visit your local farmers’ market. It’s a fun activity in itself, especially if you grab your bike, find a scenic route to get you there, and invite your friends to join you.
So, the next time you find yourself heading out of town to bring home summer happiness in a basket, take a look around and smile when you see families teaching their children where food comes from, how much work goes into growing it, and how much fun it can be to harvest it. We need to pass these values on to the next generation, and encourage everyone to grow what they can in their own backyards (more on that in another post).
To find a pick-your-own farm near you, check out PickYourOwn.org. Happy picking!