When I was fourteen, my father bought a small health food store in Monterey Park, California, as a side business. He was a schoolteacher who played piano on weekend nights. I was a sophomore in a nearby high school. My older sister was made the manager, and I became the relief cashier in the afternoons, after I got out of school.
Along with being my first real job, it was where I was first introduced to the idea of growing food organically. Among the magazines on the rack, which I read cover to cover when there were no customers in the store, were Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening, Prevention, and several other magazines promoting a healthy, non-adulterated lifestyle; magazines which have, in some cases, become lifelong resources, and which have largely informed my desire to grow food organically for myself and my community.
Previously, I had no idea that most of our food crops are routinely sprayed with toxic chemicals, many of which were so dangerous that they have since been pulled from the market, and tens of thousands of which have been introduced into agriculture since then. My experience of gardening was from watching my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, all of whom gardened as naturally as possible, and used chemicals only as a last resort.
My mother kept a large compost pile in our back yard and, even though its function was still a bit mysterious to me, she was adamant that it was fundamental to the health of our garden. I later learned that my grandmother and great-grandmother did the same. They all had favorite varieties of plants and flowers that they grew regularly, and they all saved at least some seed for the future.
This was all before genetically engineered crops were introduced to the market.
Two days ago was my great-grandmother’s birthday. She would have been a sprightly 131 years old. In reality, she lived to the age of eighty eight, in good health and sound mind up until the end, and far outlived the doctor who had predicted her early demise from the heart murmur he diagnosed when she was a child. She was born in 1882 and, according to family legend, the family moved to her mother’s home state of California when she was six months old, traveling by covered wagon. She lived until 1971, having witnessed the moon landings.
My great grandmother was an interesting woman; highly religious, yet open-minded enough to subscribe to National Geographic and the Christian Science Monitor, though she was not a Christian Scientist. She was soft spoken, hard working and had an able mind.
I wonder what her take would be on our current state of affairs, with the health of our citizens and children compromised by huge corporations and the government officials they control, where whistleblowers have to flee the country to keep from being killed or worse, and where the rights she took for granted are being eroded and eliminated one by one. My educated guess is that she would be, rightfully, appalled.
It is to her, and to all my family and loved ones, that I dedicate this series of posts. May we all arm ourselves with the information we need to reclaim and regain our best health possible, and to inform those who are not yet aware of how harmful genetically engineered foods really are.