Protecting the Food Chain
Bev Vines-Haines



Maddie and I moved to Sydney, Australia two years ago.  We’re both Master Gardeners and we’d heard about the soil, the widely diverse climates on the continent and the robust passion for locally grown foods. Perhaps there were other reasons for our quick departure from the States but we have an understanding it won’t be discussed.  Her parents and my parents were great when we were first grade friends, BFFs in middle school and even basketball teammates in senior high. 

I’d say the trouble started in college.  We were roommates.  Of course. 

We never told our families we were a couple.  And by the time they figured it out we were on our own and living in a commune in Arizona.  Contact more or less stopped.

Before long we were living in the Bay Area and working with community gardens.  We’re both foodies.  We grow it.  We formulate recipes.  We experiment with herbs and plan meals days in advance.

Eventually we crossed paths with an over eager USDA employee who seemed fixated on our garden.  Admittedly it was large.  Two oversized city lots.  But it takes a lot of area to produce food for a couple hundred people.  Lord, we love the soil.  And teaching kids to feed themselves.  To start plants indoors and transplant outside in late spring.  Maddie is the teacher.  She knows all about preserving food.  Dehydrating.  Freezing.  Canning.

Seems there is some obscure law about keeping no more than three weeks of stored food.  Seriously!  Stay in your own lane USDA!  This agent showed up at all hours.  Examining each plant.  Lifting leaves as if we had hidden crops underneath. 

No matter how we tried not to believe this, it seemed she didn’t want our apartment-dwelling friends to survive should we get the “big one.”  “Why do they need all this stored food?” she would ask.  “Why do you two need so much food?”  Curiosity became hostility and we often saw her stalking our veggies in weird disguises, funky hats and glasses.  I have to say we were forced to make short work of the threat.  People need to eat and people need knowledge.  Storing food is common sense.  Not revolution.

Once the garden was secure and our friends knew how to keep it going, we made our move.  Right now things are pretty safe in Australia.  They still admire resourcefulness, ingenuity and a passion for survival.  Freedom is possible.  We no longer teach.  Here it seems people still know basic skills and love and laughter can still be heard in the streets.

But that American influence?  It will get here far too soon.

First published: May 2018
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