If you attended the Muscogee Nation Festival this year, you might have noticed a handwritten sign advertising “New Potatoes” on your way into the Omniplex.
Susie Harjo and her nephew Vince Deo were selling Pontiac Reds—big ones for baking, small ones for boiling—fresh from their organic garden south of Hanna. Growing potatoes is a family tradition, but one that was nearly lost before Susie and Vince decided to get back in the business of producing their own food.
Farming brings back a lot of memories for Susie, who was raised in the fields; her father plowed with a team of mules and sharecropped with his neighbors to make ends meet. Now she’s passing on her knowledge to Vince, who has a growing vision of the possibilities for a family-run market garden.
I hope you had a chance to talk with Susie and Vince about their operation—and to take home some of their healthy, delicious crop.
* * *
New potatoes were not the only local produce available in Okmulgee during the summer solstice weekend.
On Friday, festivalgoers could also patronize the farmers market held on the west lawn of the Creek Council House, a weekly event organized by the Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative. Heavy rains in the area have damaged or delayed some crops, but there were still several growers with early-season fruits and vegetables for sale.
I picked up some local peaches along with a quart of blackberries from the Owasso Tree and Berry Farm. These plump, sweet berries were especially tasty, and timely as well—in the Mvskoke calendar, June is Kvco-Hvse, Blackberry Month.
Like the smell of a homemade casserole, it’s comforting to know that a few of our indigenous agricultural traditions are alive and well, even early in a growing season hampered by stormy weather.
* * *
Those in Mvskoke country who are producing potatoes and blackberries and other crops for local consumption, as well as those who are buying and preparing and eating this produce, are part of a growing trend in the fast food nation.
Across America and around the world, people are fed up with corporate control of their food supply. Many are joining the Slow Food movement, which aims to stimulate local economies, promote agricultural diversity, preserve culinary traditions, and encourage healthy lifestyles.
Eating local can be very difficult in a world dominated by Walmarts and Warehouse Markets.
In his recent book Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods, ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan recounts his attempt to survive for a year on food produced within 250 miles of his home in southern Arizona. He lived to tell the tale, though he had to cheat several times each week and it still wasn’t easy.
How long could you live on food produced within a half-day’s drive of your home? And where would you buy it?
Support your local farmers market!
Let’s hope for a bumper crop in Mvskoke fields this year, and for more people like Susie and Vince to cultivate the Mvskoke agricultural heritage.