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Postcard of High Grove Farm, Leesburg, Indiana.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Well, I remember that much from geometry, at least. Interesting how Euclid’s deduction has manifested over time, especially regarding our access to life’s necessities.

A century ago, the population balance in the United States first shifted from the rural to the urban and in doing so bent and tangled what had once been a direct connection. If you substitute nature to represent the rural and technology to characterize the urban, the crooked twists and turns can be illuminated more clearly. Not that this will necessarily translate into increased clarity.

In the early decades of the 20th Century, concepts like organic or farm- to-table were simply the way things were, albeit out of necessity. The average bite of food did not travel thousands of miles or pass through dozens of intermediaries from grower to consumer. The farms, the markets, and the kitchen tables were often found in the same state, sometimes the same county. This was especially true in the Midwest.

In 1926, Indiana was the top onion producing state in the nation; providing a fifth of the total harvest in bushels. That was the year that Texas would first surpass Indiana for the top spot. So once again with the math. It appears the consolidation and distancing of food sources was already beginning in earnest with nearly half of domestic onion cultivation coming from just two states a thousand miles apart.

Meanwhile, back home in Indiana, a variety other fruits and vegetables were still being cultivated, though the trend of decline in local produce had already taken hold. In the period between 1910 and 1925, just 15 years, the output of Indiana-grown peaches dropped by 2/3. The state’s annual crop of cherries virtually disappeared. Still, half a million maple trees were still being tapped for sap and syrup within the Hoosier state. And now, are there even half a million maple trees left standing?

Yes, despite all efforts to change it, the shortest distance between two points is still a straight line. It’s demonstrated in the routes of the interstate highway system connecting urban areas to each other. These would all be identified by numbers whereas heritage peaches and cherries from a century ago carried fanciful names instead: Stump The World, a type of freestone peach or Early Richmond, a tart and tangy variety of cherry by way of Virginia. These are two of thousands of varieties of fruits and vegetables you are unlikely to ever taste because it just isn’t practical to ship them to you quickly enough. 

Title, ArtistAlbum

Raspberry Beret, Prince, Around the World in a Day

Blueberry Hill, Fats Domino, Deluxe Greatest Hits

Homegrown Tomatoes, Guy Clark, Better Days

Apple Scruffs, George Harrison, All Things Must Pass

Apple Suckling Tree, Bob Dylan & The Band, Basement Tapes

Down On The Farm, Little Feat, Down On The Farm

Garden In The Rain, Sarah Vaughan, The Explosive Sarah Vaughan

Canned Goods, Greg Brown, One More Goodnight Kiss

Bare Necessities, Phil Harris, Jungle Book Soundtrack

Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries, Lisa Loeb, Single

Let It Grow, Eric Clapton, 461 Ocean Boulevard