Food Diversity of Southern Illinois

I literally live across the street from a corn field.

Whenever I tell people this, they automatically assume I’m this country farm girl that grew up with cows and goats and sheep and fields of all sorts of different home grown fruits and veggies to sell and eat. They don’t know how wrong they are.

I said corn field instead of farm for a reason. Yes there is the stereotypical plowed field and barn and silos off in the distance behind the rows of freshly turned soil, but that is it. No cows graze the grasses, no sheep roam the yards, and certainly no other crops are even considered to be planted. Just a massive monoculture. There are plots of land with cows on them, but that’s all that will be in that “farm.” Crops aren’t grown with livestock anymore. Varieties of plants aren’t grown under the same land owner. The only variety you will see is when the corn crops exhaust the soil and they have to plant soybeans for a year instead to replenish the nutrients that the corn needs.

It’s not exactly something you really think about when you’ve seen it for 20 years of your life. It just seems like a normal, everyday farm because it’s what we’re used to. It wasn’t till my mom started becoming super homegrown loving that I realized what a huge difference there was. It all started with our neighbor’s tomato plant. They had always had one growing in their back yard, but it never really gave much produce. One year though, it flourished. The family had tomatoes galore and were doing everything they could to get rid of some. By this point my mom had become known on the street for her home made tomato sauce (it has spoiled all other tomato sauces for me ever in my life, I could honestly eat it like a soup without complaint) so they came over with this basket filled to the brim with real home grown tomatoes. To my 12 year old self, these tomatoes looked rather strange. They were lumpy, all sorts of odd shapes, and their color wasn’t the perfect bright red I was used to seeing. But nonetheless, my mom made her ever so yummy sauce with the strange tomatoes for dinner that night and we never looked back. Since then, we all as a family have tried to find local, non-Monsanto farmers that actually grow proper homegrown crops. We also started our own herb garden, cutting back on store bought, overly dried herbs. Doing this was alot harder than we thought, however. Very few farmers had their own seed to grow from since the market was so full of the big name seeds with the pesticide or genetic enhancements, so it was difficult to find people selling crops. We started eating with the seasons, on a minor scale, having loads of root vegetables at one point, then a surplus of corn and tomatoes the next.

Places like Florida, however, don’t get to experience food seasons like this, however, since their land isn’t entirely conducive to crops and vegetables like the midwest. Alot of things have to be imported from far off fields, some not even from the same country. And really, that’s a shame. I enjoyed eating with the seasons while I was home and going out to the apple orchards in the fall or the pumpkin fields around Halloween or the berry patches in the spring. It was something to look forward to in the year, like Christmas or your birthday. It makes those little things that much more special

I wish more people could live like this, I think they’d see nature in a new light if they could.

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