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As the Rudolph's were finishing up planting the garden for the day, a neighbor began hauling haylage for some dairy cows. (Brenda Rudolph/Special to Agweek)

Gardening stirs thoughts about the food web

The kids and I spent a day planting the garden with two dear friends of ours.

Throughout the day, Vivian played "green house lady" going in and out of the green house telling us all about the plants. Everett found toads, worms and everything in between.

As we planted and worked together, our conversations went from where to plant, to how well the plants looked, to looking forward to fresh cucumbers out of the garden.

As we planted throughout the day, my thoughts went to food and how we are all connected around food. What does that look like? Thoughts to canning and freezing later in the summer. When will the strawberry patches be open? I thought of how spending time in a garden teaches my children about food. The simple act of placing a plant and seed in the ground will have a significant impact on their lives around food.

I thought about last summer when Everett and I were on a food panel at the Minnesota State Fair talking about food and farming. One of the questions that has crossed my mind so many times since then was when a lady asked me what I thought about Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. A simple question. I think CSA's are important and play a vital role in our food. I have talked with my kids about in-season foods. My kids understand tomatoes do not grow year round in Minnesota.

CSA food boxes, I think, bring the conversation and the realizations of what foods are in season. They also make a person use foods that they might not normally purchase. They make people look up different recipes of how to prepare. They make people cook. CSA's have a very important role.

I also added how a tomato out of my garden or at the local farmers market tastes so good compared to the one in the store. With that being said, when I want a tomato in January I need the grocery store to bring in tomatoes from where they are grown out of state. That is the reason why in Minnesota we are a high meat and potatoes cuisine because that is what we had all winter 50 years ago. The "privilege" of having every kind of food at our fingertips wasn't always there.

As the sun began to set on the garden, I went to take a picture of one of the newly planted pepper plants. As I snapped the picture, a tractor and wagon drove past. A tractor on a mission to fill with haylage to take back to their farm for food for their dairy cows. Those dairy cows produce milk. Milk for all of us to enjoy. Milk to provide for their families.

In the distance we could hear the hum of the chopper and the rumble of the haylage wagons coming up the gravel road. The song of a dairy farmer echoed through the air as we placed some of our seeds of lettuce, radishes, peas and beans in the ground.

We are all connected by food.

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