By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician
This winter I joined a writers’ group — a huge step out of my dietitian-farmer comfort zone. Each week the group is given two prompts for a 10-minute write about, NO google, NO preparation and NO THESARAUS!!! Yikes! A FREAK OUT began when I found the protocol involved sharing. Out. Loud. My blood pressure began to rise as David Bowie crooned in my ear “Pressure pushing down on me.”
As the cell timer began to chime, I had changed directions more than Siri in three consecutive traffic circles in a construction zone.
“Under pressure” was full chorus while my blood pressure was about to jet my head into the heavens. Not good, as this was a group of Midwesterners, New Yorkers, New Jersians, and Californians young at heart. How could I share when I couldn’t even follow my train of thought. At the first prompt I shook my head with absolute certainty that this was not happening.
It was interesting to me how writers take such different perspectives on the same prompt. A free vacation prompt had one guy writing about his aviation mechanics and escapades that I replied, I need a do over. The third meet up, I was in charge of the prompt. Shocker, I chose “strawberries.”
I told the group I was a berry farmer, and they could go in any direction, but it had to be about local strawberries. The clock was ticking. Blood pressure in check, I began to write how I ended up being a berry farmer. As a youngster all I wanted to do was get off the farm and be a dietitian with the Cleveland Indians. I wrote about my customers smiles and on a warm sunny day walking into the fragrant strawberry field and eating a sun-kissed, entirely red, ripe juicy strawberry plucked fresh from its home. Finally, an acceptable piece. Listening to their memories about toddlers overeating and spending the afternoon on the toilet, migrant workers, berry’s feelings to favorite recipes, it was my turn to read. When I finished, they had one question. “Can you really eat berries fresh from the field?” My confusion fog faded as the lightbulb clicked on. Interesting but heartbreaking, they didn’t think it was safe to eat fresh from the farm. I gave a silent eye roll as The Dirty Dozen was even mentioned. A brief comparison of plant health to their familiar prescription meds was given. I suggested they ignore The Dirty Dozen and check out www.safefruitsandveggies.com, assuring them that it was absolutely safe to eat fresh from the field, minus the dusting of field dirt with a quick rinse. I even recommended a local strawberry farm that had just opened up for public picking. The group finished and I started to chat with one writer. She stated that farming is really outside her familiar circle being from New Jersey and she only knows what she reads.
The morning affirmed to me that we get comfy in our farming communities and that we need to be “noisier” to those that are generations and miles from the dirt in which their food is grown and raised. Anti-ag, animal welfare and specifically the Environmental Working Group have done an extraordinary job getting the word out how bad conventional farm produce is with their Dirty Dozen listing. Strawberries reached the dirtiest of the dozen in 2023. How sad is it that the joy of fresh berries from the field can’t be enjoyed in their eyes? We have the world’s safest food supply whether it’s from a u-pick farm or from the grocery shelves. Most of the time we are preaching to the choir so it will take more uncomfortable moments with the “pressure pushing down on” us. In the meantime, celebrate The Dirty Dozen by piling your plates high with strawberries, spinach, kale, collard and mustard greens, peaches, pears, nectarines, apples, grapes, peppers, cherries, blueberries, and green beans.
Eat well & Healthy,
1 & 2 Strawberries & Spinach
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing