Ever see a squirrel selling nuts? How about a bird setting up a stall in a tree with a buy-one-get-one worm deal? Or a raccoon offering a meal delivery service? New specials each week!
Ok, obviously not. Unless the animal kingdom is deep into digital currencies without our knowledge, there’s no black Friday, no Labor Day Sales, no monetary exchanges of any kind for food.
Why is that? Besides the whole interspecies communication thing, it’s mostly because there’s an abundance of food in this world, as I’m reminded every November when my roof is pelted by falling acorns. Why would anyone pay for something that is one tree away?
Am I being slightly absurd? Yes, but surely you’ve seen our branding already. You’re also likely to have passed by hundreds if not thousands of lawns growing nothing but grass -- or better yet, lawns that are full of dandelion, chickweed, chives, wild blackberries, wild strawberries, plantain, and more. Despite the fact that you could walk outside and make yourself an extremely healthy salad with all of those ingredients, you are much more likely to have taken out your lawn mower, chopped it all down, and spent your hard-earned money on frozen pizza instead.
There was an interesting op-ed in the New York Times with an early contender for subheader of the year -- “Humans Are Animals. Let’s Get Over It. It’s astonishing how relentlessly Western philosophy has strained to prove we are not squirrels.” We certainly do look down upon the lowly squirrel, yet I’ve never seen a group of squirrels forced into forming a union to receive higher wages so they can put food on the table, nor have I seen a group of evil squirrels who then tried to prevent them from doing so.
Maybe we’re the ones who’ve gotten it totally backwards. Maybe the squirrels look down on us every morning, piling into our gas guzzling vehicles for a minimum of an eight hour work day, rushed, stressed, unhappy, and think, “Poor saps, when will they ever realize all the food they need is right in front of them? Oh well, more for me and my family!”
So no, we are definitely not squirrels. We work significantly more hours for food and shelter than they do. And I’m not suggesting we head back into the trees to join our furry friends. But I am suggesting there’s significantly more food we could be growing literally outside our front door rather than sweating through our shirts mowing our lawns during the summer for little to no return at all.
Our brains have been hijacked. We’ve been convinced that it’s easier and more reliable to go work for some billionaire, or the subsidiary of a holding company that was just bought out by venture capitalists or what-the-hell ever, to earn money and buy food than it is to grow food and then work for whatever else we need (or want). We’ve also been told that everything we used to know about what foods are edible and how to grow them is a waste of brain space. So now we destroy our landscapes and all the edibles trying to survive and give little to no thought as to what else could grow there. On top of that, our biggest farms grow corn that is not even edible. We have food deserts in our wealthiest cities and in farm country. Forgive me for this atrocious pun, but that’s nuts.
In all seriousness, how many hours a week would you work for someone else if food was already on your table? I’m certainly not saying no one would ever have to work again, nor am I saying growing food does not take a lot of effort. But you’d at least have that choice. And if you were unfairly laid off, or a pandemic shut down food supply chains, at least you wouldn’t starve.
We are not going back to an agrarian society, at least not one that resembles anything like our past. But we can grow a lot more food where we live. Just one apple tree can produce over 200 pounds of apples per year. Imagine a neighborhood with 50 apple trees -- that’s 10,000 pounds of apples every year. By the way, one tree costs $20, about the same as four frozen pizzas, and they produce food for 50 years. That’s roughly .002 pennies per apple over the duration of that trees life. How's that for return in investment?
The point is this: right now, food is the last thing we think about. All I’m suggesting is that we’d be much happier and healthier if we put food first. At least as happy as your average squirrel.