Munching on a sweet, crimson berry. Savoring the crunch of seeds against one's tongue. Delighting in fireworks of flavor explode in one's mouth as one bites into a ripe fruit. These are all things most of us take for granted. However, behind the colorful food, there is a story. A story of determination and sometimes loss. Perhaps the easiest way to appreciate what is on one's plate is to learn the story behind it.
Small and large farms alike strive to provide the surrounding world with sustenance every day. This is especially difficult when plague strikes.
In the 1940s, a deadly disease struck the papayas on the islands of Hawaii. Papaya Ringspot Virus caused thousands of deformed, infested papayas to replace the once healthy fruits that had lined the rows on farms. The disease, transported by aphids, spread to nearly every major papaya producer, reducing the number of papayas produced in Hawaii by almost fifty percent over the course of thirteen years. It was not uncommon for the trees most ridden with Papaya Ringspot Virus to perish altogether. Farmers depending on the papaya for income suffered a significant loss. An industry worth about eleven to twelve million at one point threatened to vanish almost completely. Some say it would have, had the superhero who rescued it not.
Dennis Gonsalves was notified of Hawaii's crisis and determined to find a solution. His expedition began in 1985, and by 2001, he had discovered the cure for a seemingly incurable ailment. After much testing, it was found that a genetically-modified papaya was highly resistant to Papaya Ringspot Virus. It was named the Rainbow Papaya and still exists today. Currently, over ninety percent of all papayas in Hawaii are genetically modified, sparing the farmers the trouble of handling potential epidemics. Family farms praise Gonsalves and tell tales of his good deeds, for, in a time where generations of farming were nearly erased, a scientist from Cornell University ensured they were not.
Modern-day reporters do not write about the challenges and the burden given to those who grow our food. A large portion of the world is not aware of the energy and effort of the resources used to perform a task that should be highly respected. We regard doctors and lawyers with great respect, but what about farmers? The beautiful apple with a perfect texture and flawless crunch took time. As is true with all products, it required care and attention.
The same concept can be applied to poultry. An animal was raised and sacrificed for another. This is too often overlooked and not often enough appreciated.
Walking into a grocery store is a simple task. To many, the ingredients covering the shelves are a common sight. They have grown accustomed to packaging whatever it is their heart desires and paying for it at a cash register. However, sometimes, when immigrants from third world countries enter these stores, they are amazed at the astonishing array of products available to the public. In an instant, one can decide to take a short journey to the nearest store and retrieve anything for their culinary endeavors or a house party.
Maybe if these things were not so readily available, found around every corner and located at the edge of our neighborhoods, we would not take them for granted. Maybe we would feel a vaster sense of gratitude for the people we see daily if one day we didn't. Next time a meal is placed in front of you, remember: there is a story. A farmer could have struggled to save a dying crop in the batch of green beans you bought. Caterpillars may have consumed your chard before it was separated and shipped off. Take a moment to consider that someone somewhere fought to grant you the things you have now that not everyone has had.