Monday, February 28, 2011

Know your Farmer. Know your Food.

Not every emotion experienced while farming is one of bucolic tenderness towards all living things. Recently I found myself mildly wrathful at the sight of a wilted head of desperate broccoli at our local gigantic super market. (super denoting size, not quality.)
How do we stand it? The veggies that look to be beaming and blooming with health and vitality are poisoned, laced with the pesticides and chemicals used to grow them on mega farms. The organic section (if you can find it) hosts a few limp veggies that lay there beneath the fluourecent lighting, as if gasping for their last breaths, hoping beyond hope that their packaging will sell them…like some malnourished hollowed-eyed orphan in a Dickens novel.
It is absurd that we continue to accept the current food system, with all of its trucking of vegetables and fruits from thousands of miles away. The very beings of vegetables cry out in protest. They are not created for so much post-harvest handling.

Why do we continue to support the warehouse system of distribution-where grocery stores will not so much wink at a small farmer, when they can buy whatever they need, in whatever quantity from a large warehouse of mega-farmed food? It pains me that in small rural communities, like the one we live in, with small farmers and dairies just eking out a hold on their land, in the hours between their 9 to 5 jobs and sleep…that our first thought for where to get eggs, veggies, fruit, and milk…is the vast and massive Meijer's. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate Meijers' existence if only for its extensive ice cream selection…but I acknowledge that this is a bit of a contradiction in my self-sufficiency seeking self…and deep down I know that I never really frequent the grocery store for REAL food.
Our chickens, pigs, sheep, and dairy goats give us our eggs, meat and cheese…John down the road a piece delivers our milk. Every morning we have the pleasure of deciding whether to shake the bottle or just pour that nice heavy cream on top into our tea. How much things have changed, and in such a short time, so that it is considered radical to suggest sourcing one’s food directly from the farm! Why do we accept the ubiquitous existence of the middleman? Where the middleman helps us out, by all means, pour him a beer and pat him on the back…but where his existence threatens our health, our pocketbooks, and our stewardship of the land that surrounds our cities and suburbs cut him out!
We have grown unaccustomed to sourcing our staples from small farmers. The small farmer has grown unaccustomed to being thought of at all…but there are many people who are beginning to tire of confronting limpid or poisoned produce in the local grocery store, and who fear for the effects or irradiation and ultra-pasteurization of meat and milk on their families’ health.

I say hurrah to this!

The moment we begin again to think about the fact that vegetables begin their lives in soil, and meat and milk have as their origins a living breathing animal, we start to wonder about the soil itself, its health, and the living conditions of the animals that provide us our meat and milk…and we begin to realize how very important it is to meet the person and persons responsible for tending the soil, and the animals…and that when we take the time to invest in these small farmers, these guardians of the micro biotic world of the soil, we are committing ourselves to sustaining the communities that we live in, enriching them, and acknowledging that we are part of a greater whole than just ourselves. But such unselfishness is indeed radical.

It may mean walking away from the big box stores and getting your shoes dirty on a little inconspicuous farm nearby…where someone makes growing food an all-consuming passion. It is not radical, however, in the sense of moving to a nudist colony or eating hummus. Its more like the leap you make when you allow yourself to fall in love…

Know your Farmer. Love your Food.

We need you.


  1. Really lovely post. Thanks for this!
    I found you while browing through the Local Harvest site to see if there were any new csa's nearby. So nice to find one that writes as well. Welcome to the neighborhood! We're not a CSA... just a hobby farm with cattle and chickens, but it's nice to see other folks with kids running around chasing chickens!

  2. Hi! Thanks for stopping cyberly in! If you are nearby, come on over for a spell and tell us all there is to know about cattle! We desperately need a milking cow...because icecream is one of the essential building blocks of life (in my humble opinion!)