I have never tasted anything like it before. It had a delicate minty flavor and melted in your mouth like the sugar fibers of cotton candy. I literally stopped in my tracks. As the rest of the group passed me by, I plucked off a couple more strands of wild fennel and placed them on my tongue. A phrase came into mind, the same phrase that has been repeated at least 35 times that day:
What the heck is this?!?!
I imagine this was what Charlie Bucket must have felt like when he stepped foot inside Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Remember the scene with Chocolate Room? Willy Wonka, played by Gene Wilder, leads the children and their guardians into the room where “all [his] dreams become realities. And some of [his] realities become dreams.” There is a chocolate river, giant edible mushrooms, gummy bear trees, lollypop bushes and more! Almost everything is edible.
Well, I’m telling you now, dear readers, such a place like this exists. I’ve been there. And you don’t even have to worry about turning into a giant blueberry or getting stretched like taffy. In fact, a trip to this place will lead to better health, not worse. This place called is Fenton Family Farms. Our Willy Wonka is Mike Fenton.
Mike showed us around his 17-acre property, pointing out this fruit tree and that berry bush. We stopped to handpick and taste his oranges, strawberries, and blackberries. We smelled three different kinds lavender, chewed on two different kinds of mint, and ran our fingers through nutrient rich soils.
But what surprised me the most were the herbs. Mike would pluck the leaves or flowers off of a weed-like plant and say something like, “This goes great in a salad. Try it.” And it would be like nothing I have ever tasted before. I had no idea there were so many edible plants I wasn’t familiar with! At the end of our tour, Mike actually did make us a salad. Garnished with herbs and freshly picked berries, it was the most flavorful salad I have ever had. And it was only dressed in olive oil! Needless to say, I will never look at salad the same way again.
I feel incredibly lucky to have had the privilege to visit Mike’s property. It’s like I have won the Golden Ticket that was concealed between the wrappers of my position at OC Food Access Coalition (which is a treat on its own!). But what if everyone has a Golden Ticket? What if we all have access to these amazing properties that are growing all these amazing foods? What if we all carried a ticket that opened the doors to a revolutionized way of eating, of thinking about food?
I believe we are getting there. We are finding Golden Tickets in school gardens. We are finding Golden Tickets in Farmer’s Markets. We are finding Golden Tickets in health initiatives and policy changes. We are finding Golden Tickets in the fight against obesity and diet-related illnesses. We can even find Golden Tickets in our global agricultural past – growing, cooking and eating from the land before the institution of subsidies for cash crops, before the mechanized mass production of cheap, over-processed foods and before international food imports became the norm. You don’t have to look very hard to see that these Golden Tickets are everywhere. All you have to reach out and take it.
I leave you now with the words of Willy Wonka.
“If you want to view paradise,
Simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it.
Want to change the world?
There’s nothing to it.”
To see the rest of the photos taken during our field trip to Fenton Family Farms, visit our Facebook page here. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook!