Closing the Food Gap

Food lies at the intersection of land and community. In recent years several authors (Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, David Mas Masumoto, Alice Waters, to name a few) have embarked on a wholesale re-examination of our complex relationship to something so vital, and culturally rich.

There’s a recent book that deserves to be on everyone’s list of essential reading: Mark Winne’s Closing the Food Gap: Resettling the Table in the Land of Plenty. Winne exposes the chasm between two food systems in America — the one for the poor, and the one for everyone else. Winne draws on his twenty-five year experience as the director of the Hartford Food System in Connecticut, but there are also telling stories from across the country on our blighted food economy, growing rates of obesity and diabetes, and other health problems.

But this book also finds renewed hope in thriving community gardens, farmers’ markets, CSAs, and other innovative approaches. Closing the Food Gap is alive with the voices and stories Mark Winne has encountered over a lifetime of grassroots work in this all important field.

The Jamaican Way
Lessons from the Watkinson Community Garden in Hartford, from Closing the Food Gap

“On my knees in the dirt one day, digging in my tomato plants, I looked up to see Mr. Marley and Mr. Bennett looking down at me, shaking their heads disapprovingly. I asked if there was something wrong. They said, “Mon, ya don’t plant tah-mah-tows that way!” and then proceeded to demonstrate what they considered to be the correct technique. I was in a quandary. Should I continue to use the tried-and-true method I learned as a child…? Or should I take the advice of these two Jamaican men now regarding me sternly? Suddenly, I remembered what my colleague Jack Hale had said: “The most important word in community garden is not garden.” I now plant tomatoes the Jamaican way.

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