Having read this recent blog post article titled "The End of The Road" (which I highly recommend reading), a blog post came to me that soon grew into what I believe will be a series of blog posts.
Here is an excerpt from The End Of The Road...
"The 1970’s ushered in a radical change in the government policy surrounding agriculture and subsidies. Policy that interferes with the natural rules of supply and demand and encourages farmers to “get big or get out.”
Moreover, our government farm subsidies prioritize the growing of commodities – non-perishable food products that can be stored indefinitely in grain-bins and traded on the world market to increase our nation’s GDP, thus giving the government more borrowing power to stem off its eventual debt-defaults from bloated budgets and out of control spending.
The deeper you look, the farther the rot penetrates. The farm of days gone by – of Old MacDonald with his diversified farm of edible crops, cows, pigs, and chickens – has been replaced with endless rows of corn and shiny-new grain bins that stick out of the countryside like cathedrals paying homage to holy corn."
So let me start this blog series with a question: Do you know when the first grocery store showed up?
It wasn’t until around 1920 and wasn’t really the type we know of today until sometime near the 1940s. That’s not really all that long ago.
So where were people getting the food?
The answer is this: the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, and the backyard. Maybe some dry goods were at a local trade or mercantile if you were fortunate enough to live near one.
In the 1970's legislation for farm subsidies was put into place. (Read about that in the aforementioned article). But something else happened around this time, a "movement" which America expressed great “liberating” ideas that women should leave the work of the home and get work outside the home. Along with that went many home cooked meals (exhausted moms opted for quicker meals) and slowly but surely we became detached from our food system and lost many skills our grandmothers once had. I honestly believe that was a trick of Satan to get women out of the house as much as possible with the belief they would be more “fulfilled.” He’s after our families and our health!
I’ve been that working woman – up until about age 34 which was the time when I was married and then had children. I enjoyed my corporate management position and I was paid well for it. I enjoyed the people with whom I worked and enjoyed the benefits as well. Looking back, I had a lot of material things (car, home, some nice vacations), still I never was fully “satisfied.”
But never before have I been so fully satisfied then when I started homeschooling, training up my children and learning (and then teaching) new “skills” in the kitchen and garden that seem long lost on this generation. I wish I wouldn’t have waited for a health crisis of my daughter to do it. But better late than never!
There isn't much that is "liberating" about the typical corporate-working-grocery-store- shopping world. But there is definitely something liberating (and fulfilling) about growing, preparing and storing up my family’s food, and improving my family’s health at the same time.
I will admit, there are some things I love about the modern food system. Refrigerators and freezers are awesome, and it’s great to have some fresh produce when the root cellar and canned goods are running low and nothing is started in our garden. To have the type of abundance we have available to us today would have amazed our great-great-grandparents. Being able to get salt, pepper, and variety of other spices is very handy, too.
What I don't like about the modern supermarket is the aisles and aisles of “almost food” – things that are heavily processed to have the shelf life of an Egyptian mummy with flavors created by a team of chemists. Did you know that there are over 4000 products in the average supermarket that contain corn in some fashion (most of it genetically modified, and therefore heavily sprayed with toxic chemicals). No one really needs that many ways to eat corn. It gives the illusion of choice, but in reality most of this “almost food” is generated by a small group of very large corporations. Many hiding behind names that look like local, small farms but are nothing of the sort.
Is it any real wonder why diabetes and cancer are on the rise?
Knowing all this might get some of us inspired or even outraged, but the reality is that we need real answers in order to get things done.
I don’t think the convenience of the one-stop-grocery store is likely to lose its attraction, but I do hope we can make progress towards improving the quality of the foods they offer and the food we bring into our homes.
So perhaps our message is resonating with you and perhaps you understand the benefits of eating food that is grown or raised close to home; knowing and supporting the local farmer; choosing nutrient-rich foods grown without the use of pesticides; simplifying the meals and cooking seasonally grown options.
But how on earth does the average family start making changes in their diet and lifestyle right away?
Not everyone lives near a weekly organic farmer’s market and typical grocery stores don’t support this type of food distribution. So how do you get started? I’m glad you asked! The answer to that is what I plan to write about in a series of blog posts in the coming months. I hope to share about everything from how get more food locally to canning your own salsa. I’ll talk about how to avoid the chemicals in our modern food supply and give you easy to understand ideas for making changes. I’ll talk about getting closer to your food supply and storing up for the winter.
So to kick off this series let me first share just a few things you can start doing right away:
1. GET INTO YOUR KITCHEN A local-focus and integrity food system begins in the home. Your personal skill level in knowing food is critical for making decisions about food. You can’t make wise decisions about things you’re not interested in. If you aren’t interested in it, your children likely will not be interested either. Further, buying unprocessed means you save a lot of money.
Right now, you can buy one of our pastured chickens for less per pound than a package of Tyson boneless, skinless breast. The whole price question changes when you begin preparing, packaging, preserving, and processing with domestic culinary skills and infrastructure. This is not our grandma’s kitchen. Today, we have hot and cold running water, cooking appliances that turn on instantly, refrigerators, Tupperware, slow cookers, timed bake, Insta-pots and google recipes— it’s a regular Star Trek of technology. The more you participate, the more skilled you’ll become. Hello true liberation!
2. INVEST ONE YEAR’S TIME AND MONEY that otherwise would go to entertainment and recreation in discovering your local food purveyors — knowing your farmer. Every area now has numerous excellent farmers, food co-ops (our farm serves three right now) whole grain co-ops (we use UNFI and there’s probably a drop point near you). Find them and begin patronizing them. If you don’t go out and find these, they will not find you.
If you want different outcomes on your table, you have to invest in finding the alternatives. You can’t expect to change your life without changing your actions and priorities. This is a one-year break from your normal Netflix, theater, entertainment center. In one year, you’ll find your food and be set for changing your life. (Removing TV was one of the best things our family has ever done. Invest in some good board games and use the saved money to buy healthy food!) It’s all about priorities. What are yours?
3. DO SOMETHING TO CONNECT… with our ecological umbilical. It could be as simple as a composting kit under the kitchen sink, a patio container garden, or a beehive in your backyard. Instead of a dog or cat, you could get two chickens–kitchen chickens. They’ll eat all your kitchen scraps and give you an egg or two as a gratuity.
If you have any yard space, put in a raised vegetable bed. If you have more room, put a small greenhouse near your patio. Participating in the amazing miracle of life is healthy for the head and heart.
Feeling too busy to do this? Consider this: The average American male 25-35 years old spends 20 hours per week playing video games. Is this really more important than knowing how to raise and prepare your own food?
The first thing that must be changed is the “want.” If you don’t want it, or if you think it’s too hard, or if you’re not willing to write down an action plan, you don’t want it. Truth is available to anyone who wants it. This means filling your house with life, not electronics; it means filling your free time with hands-on participation in biological functions, not soccer, theater, and Happy Meals.
Feeling confused by all those “organic” and “non-GMO” labels? Of course people are confused; that’s what the industry loves because confusion breeds disinterest. Certifications are extremely expensive so generally the best farms do not participate in these schemes.
One answer to the confusion: Don’t shop at the supermarket! Or at least do so as little as possible.
Instead, start seeking to patronize your local farmer. The best certification is your knowledge and personal acquaintance, so patronize farms that you visit and farmers with whom you feel comfortable. Or, use a local co-op that has already checked out the farms for you (there are more of these than you might think!) While some foods such as spices, citrus, specialty grains and perhaps oils are difficult to find locally, most staples like dairy, meat, poultry, vegetables, fruits, conventional grains, and honey are quite available locally. Hub distribution of these things within a foodshed or co-op, is great. But taking chicken from Missouri to a customer in California is simply unacceptable. And even more unacceptable is taking chicken from China to Missouri!
One of the biggest problems with nationwide distribution is that the food must pass through government regulations that diminish the integrity of the food. For example, our farm’s chicken processing uses no chlorine or toxic substances. But the chicken sold to most restaurants is constantly bathed in toxic substances. Organic does not address these issues, but local sourcing does. At the end of the day, you need to know enough to trust your suppliers. If you don’t trust, then do enough sleuthing until you do.
Start small if needed.
Cook something from scratch and buy a small something from a local farmer. Learn to make a new item. Purpose to grow some tomatoes and can them so you’ll have a stock of them in your basement for winter. Never will you feel more liberated than to head to your basement for real food, instead of to the grocery store for food with unknown origins.