Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What's Missing From This Picture? Day 2 in Mossville

Back home in Boston, Pat has planted our moon bed with jerry variety of spring oats (we call them Jerry Springer Oats) as a fast growing cover crop and source of green manure for the bed and compost pile. Maybe this weekend the weather will be dry and she will plant peas in the square bed.  I am very conscious that I am missing a prime gardening moment -- the first crops go in, the ones that are cold hardy but make the early delicious fixings of spring salad or stir fry.  Pea tendrils, tender early spinach, kale and arugula, turnips and mustard greens. 

There are no gardens in Mossville.  Varieties of rosaceae and pear are blooming, the live oaks budding.  But no land is turned, no sturdy tomato plants providing hope of a profitable harvest from the acres of land that make up this semi-rural part of Calcasieu Parish.  The Sarah Lawrence College Health Advocacy students and I have been driving around "cutting turf," that is, mapping and sectioning the community for interviewers to conveniently travel on foot.  There are beautiful little ponds, many wooded tracts and expanses of mowed fields. People clearly care about their property.  There's lawn furniture and children's play sets but no food growing, no truck farms or back yard gardens. "It's the soil," the residents say.  The soil here will make a body sick. The food one might grow will be full of dioxins. 

I have never lived in a place where you couldn't garden.  And because of the air pollution, even if you put in raised beds with a thick barrier between the bed and the soil it rested on the food would still be contaminated.  Whether you were were raised "Up South" or down vegetable gardens are part of the fabric and character of African-American communities.  CONOCO and the other toxic refineries have stolen this  important cultural, economic and social activity.  What's wrong with this picture?

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