I’m an amateur photographer who loves breathing life into ideas. I grew up in the land of Kodak – Rochester, New York, where it seemed like everyone’s dad worked at Kodak. My dad did, and we grew up to the smell of dust burning off the light bulb of the slide projector on Saturday nights. In college I had the opportunity to work two summers at Kodak and somehow I was able to obtain an unlimited supply of film. Pinch me! For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed capturing life.

Three years ago, I started with a seed of an idea to create a local children’s book of colors that helps children begin to re-connect face and food. My book, Simone Goes to the Market, follows Simone as she goes from farmer to farmer buying colorful, fresh produce. I took all of the photographs at our local Bellingham Farmer’s Market. I have found that children (and adults) love the close-up faces of real people they can actually meet who grow food they can actually eat!

I have learned of the myriad benefits of eating locally – keeping local small farms vital, promoting our health and the health of the land, sustaining our local economy, and reducing our reliance on energy-intensive shipping and packaging of food. And what I experience on a more visceral level is the joy of eating locally. When I buy eggs from Gretchen, garlic from Roslyn, and kale from Jed, my life is more integrated with the life of our community and the life of the soil. And in our disintegrated society, re-integrating our lives and building the social fabric of our community is not only deeply satisfying, but one of the most important tasks we have before us.

American kids need to be reintroduced to a fact that most of the rest of the world still knows: food can come from your neighbors. In fact, entering an age of increasing upheaval and uncertainty, that’s about as good a gift as you can give your kid. And this charming book does the trick, elegantly and with great compassion.

-Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

The development that occurs within the first five years of a child’s life is akin to the preparation of good soil so that a garden will flourish. Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds, once said something to the effect of, “If we can get a child by the age of five, we’ve got ’em for life.” I think he’s right on target (not with hooking kids on fast food, mind you). My heart is to prepare children for this new world that we are entering where the vitality of a local community is critical not only our survival, but also our joy, meaning, and fulfillment.

We need a new imagination and new symbols. Golden arches replaced by golden honey. Fake clowns replaced with Jed, Maria, and Gretchen. When children begin to see faces of farmers and real food they ask questions, conversations happen, and change occurs.

Wendell Berry said that the root of amateur means ‘for love’. I hope to always remain an amateur.

~ David Westerlund * Bellingham, Washington