Greetings from Camden on this glorious day!
We are fast approaching the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, the day when the sun spends the longest amount of time as it passes over us, from east to west. This day is celebrated in many cultures around the world. One place where the summer solstice is celebrated is the Nordic area of Northern Europe, where the solstice is associated with fertility. It is the longest time that Mother Earth and Father Sun are together continuously. Amazing things happen when those two meet!
At the Center we are well into our gardening season. Seeds were planted in the greenhouse back in February, and for the last few months seeds have been put directly into the ground. Although we had some late frosts, the gardens are awake and brimming with life and the promise of a bountiful harvest. The Eco-Interns, the Assistant Farmers, Ari and Lauren have been hard at work planting, weeding, and indeed already harvesting the spring produce. It is difficult work. The recent heat and rain has given the weeds that extra boost they need to appear everywhere. It is a constant battle to protect the seedlings from losing out to the weeds in the race for nutrients. No worries! Our team is up to the task!
The soil, the sun, the water, the worms, the microbes that swarm throughout the soil, as well as the tender loving care of the farmer, enable the harvest that we all depend on for our nourishment. We are so far removed from the source of our food. Perhaps some of us have small plots of vegetables in our backyards or at a community garden. Perhaps some of us belong to Community-Supported Agriculture groups which enable us to visit the farm and meet the farmer or we visit our local farmer’s market regularly. Most of the time, for most of us, however, we encounter fresh fruit and vegetables in the supermarket: Whole Foods, Wegmans, Acme or ShopRite. We don’t know who tended to the fruit or the vegetables as they grew. We don’t know what was used to fertilize the soil, or keep pests away, or whether or not the food was genetically modified, or what modification was introduced. What we do know is that we have figured out a very effective way to get food to millions of people most of whom are far away from a farm or dairy.
The bottom line, though, is that without the sun, without healthy soil, without fresh water, and without the tender hand of a farmworker, there would be no food, whether in our backyard, or on the local farm or at the source of all the variety of food at our supermarkets. Without the collaboration of mother earth and father sun, that amazing biochemical collaboration, life would not be possible. This might be a reason that the ancients celebrated the longest day of the year, the summer solstice in our northern hemisphere. In wonder and awe of the amazing capacity of nature to produce abundantly, these ancient peoples danced, and sang, and dressed up, and built fires and praised the gods for the blessing of the sun, its power to support life, and their ability to recognize it.
Let’s do something special on this summer solstice, June 21st. Attend to the amazing life that is bursting out all around you. Give thanks for that abundance. Remember the farm worker who tends the food that will make it to your table. Be attentive to how thoughtless we can be in our use of the resources of this planet. Be committed to a responsible way of life on this not unlimited resource that is earth. Join the ancients (and some contemporaries): break into song, get up and dance. There is much to be grateful for and to celebrate!
Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
President, CFET Board of Trustees