On Monday night, west Denver was hit by serious thunder and hail storms. At my house in Lakewood, we had up to 5 inches of hailstones within 10 minutes. The storm ripped the leaves off all our plants and trees, including the 20-something tomato plants and new apple trees we’d planted this spring.
Here are some photos from the night of the storm; sorry they’re dark, but you can see the crazy volume of hailstones lying around.
Our cars were also damaged, but no one was injured and our house is fine. Others in the area were not so lucky; thousands of people were without power and dozens nearby had broken windows and felled trees.
Being from Kansas, this kind of storm is not unheard of; however, it’s been a sad week as we’ve lost all the beautiful plants in our garden. I never thought I would ever cry over plants, but this kind of devastation is powerful and a bit overwhelming.
I’ve been gardening for several years now, but I feel as though my awareness of ecosystems has greatly increased. I cried not just for the loss of bushels of insanely tasty tomatoes, but because of the the sheer volume of life that has grown in my garden. Our backyard is home to dozens of plants, but also bees and ladybugs, spiders and dragonflies, squirrels and birds and earthworms. And all of those species have worked together season after season to increase the health of our soil and produce more life. A tomato plant represents more than just the fruits of this season – each fruit contains dozens of seeds that are the spark for next season. To lose such a volume of this life (and the new possibilities for more life) is staggering.
My heart goes out to the farmers and ranchers who can lose entire livelihoods from this kind of weather.
Luckily, the farm we support through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) was not damaged by the storm. It’s had me thinking a lot about distrubted food systems; how vital it is that we don’t put “all our eggs in one basket,” so to speak. A healthy food system is about more than just good soil and clean water and responsible farming. It’s also about building a web of interconnected and overlapping food sources.
I spoke with one of the farmers from our CSA farm this week, and he told me about their support of another farm who’d been devastated by hail storms, fulfilling their member’s shares each week when the other farm could not. Our farm doesn’t advertise this fact, and it’s not a marketing ploy or stunt. They stepped up because that’s what we have to do to take care of one another. And their support is an investment in CSA programs, in local agriculture, in people and plants and in what it takes to have communities that work.
When we prepare and eat food from our own backyards, or when we search out the mushrooms and spinach from our own region – we are making a consicous choice to invest. Not only in better quality food and reduced fuel use, but in the kinds of community systems that are stronger. A healthy food system can weather any storm, and we can build it – by growing, by sharing, by knowing where our food comes from. And as we struggle to deal with pounds of kale and or with how to fit in canning all those cherries, we’re doing something so much bigger than ourselves or our dinner.
Please, pay attention to your food and where it comes from. And know that every choice, every investment, every seed and plant and home cooked meal makes a difference for our ecosystems and food security and communities.
And, hug a farmer soon. They might need it.