Like so many of us in the South, my family’s heritage is firmly rooted in farming.
My father’s family farmed the land in Cherokee County from the time they arrived in the 1830s until my grandparents moved to Main Street in Canton in the early 1900s. and even then they kept some chickens, a cow and a garden for many years.
My mother grew up on a farm in Alabama and her brother was a dairy farmer in South Georgia. I have many memories of visiting my grandparents on their farm set in the midst of corn fields, of roaming the barns filled with food for the livestock, chickens and cats who acted like they owned the place.
I loved to visit the dairy farm, watch the cows being milked by my Uncle Ace and later taste the homemade butter my Aunt Sarah made. I would go with her to the henhouse to look for eggs and roam among the fruit trees that lined the yard surrounding the cheerful, white farmhouse.
But just like so many families, mine moved far away from the farm and instead of fresh produce raised in a kitchen garden or eggs hatched from chickens scratching around the yard we got our food from the grocery store.
Fortunately, though, these days farming is alive and well in Cherokee County. Farmers markets in almost every town are booming, and the summer months are filled with amazing vegetables and fruit grown right here in our own community.
Livestock is big business in our community, with horse farms, cattle and beekeeping topping the list.
And of course, there are still plenty of chickens.
Farming has evolved into a growing enterprise of young farmers in Cherokee County committed to a healthy, organic lifestyle. They farm because they love it, the anticipation, the satisfaction of watching their crops grow. It is an exciting time for farming.
In May 2002, just before Mother’s Day, my dear mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She died on Christmas Day that same year.
That began my journey for a healthier diet. As I started to research my mother’s disease I found an overwhelming amount of research about how what we eat can affect how we feel.
I began to see that it wasn’t really just what we eat but how the food is grown and processed. Without a doubt there are no easy answers, as even food raised organically can be contaminated with pesticides and chemicals so prevalent in our water and soil.
But still, I figure every little bit helps and I seek out crops raised by small farmers, organic produce, meats, eggs and milk whenever possible.
I see the benefits in the diet my grandparents took for granted. I think about the long lives they lived, and how until the late 20th century no one in my family had cancer.
Now both my parents have died of cancer and I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017.
These days I depend on doctors and a large handful of daily medication for good health. I am eternally thankful for the skill of my doctors and the advancements made in medicine.
But I also know that what I eat is important. It sustains me in ways that are life giving.
That is why it is so important to support our small farmers.
Wendell Berry wrote “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
As we reflect on the health of our bodies and our society, we should thank our farmers as well as our doctors. Both make a vast contribution to our well-being.