One of the best experiences of the year is that first taste of a garden-grown tomato. I’m a big tomato fan in general, but there’s no substitute for eating a homegrown, right-off-the-vine delicious Iowa tomato. The first ones that are ripe I’ll barely get back to the kitchen before cutting them up. And, as they’re in season, I’ll have BLTs with garden tomato, salads with garden tomato, and a bunch of dishes that don’t normally have tomato, with garden tomato.

If you’re a gardener, or have taste buds, I’m sure you’ll know what I mean. You wouldn’t think that the same plant could produce a richer-tasting harvest if it’s grown in your garden, but we all know it’s true. Stuff that is homegrown just tastes better. The science behind it is a little bit interesting – a lot of what we perceive as delicious is in fact the nutrients that help the plant to mature. Some of it is that there’s no supply-chain logistics in garden produce, that it takes ten minutes to get something from your garden to your plate, instead of from a field in California to a truck to a store. But sometimes understanding the “why” of something is less important than just experiencing it. Homegrown stuff is just better.

Perhaps it’s less dramatic, but I think that it’s true that local stuff is better when it comes to general human things, too. After the most recent storm, I’ve noticed neighbors all over town helping each other to clean up yards and streets. I think of all the concerned phone calls that took place, people checking in with each other out of a sense of concern. We do this with family members no matter where they are, of course – but there’s a point of diminishing returns for who we call our neighbor. When we’re able to see each other across the street, something important happens. I might feel sorry when I see folks are struggling a couple of states away, but when I can see it from my porch, it’s a different story. Kind of like the difference between garden produce and store-bought produce, life is richer when you’re rooted in a local community where we care about the common good and each other.

I believe that we’re in good soil here in Muscatine, and I’m grateful to have you as a neighbor. As life unfolds during these tumultuous, argumentative, and uncertain times, I hope that you know that we’re all in this together. We’re growing in the same spot, and this is the kind of good soil that produces tasty tomatoes and builds vibrant communities. A little bit of wind isn’t going to blow us away–we’ll be here together, neighbors. And, I believe, that the first taste of the harvest will always be worth the wait