For about a month now we have been visiting a local dairy farm for meat, eggs, and milk-Hendrick’s Farm and Dairy. In a recent email from the farm to its customers they explained a bit of a sad story. Prior to 2011, the farm was “governed” by the Department of Agriculture, until a law was changed last January by the Governor thereby altering how they would be regulated going forward.
Now, the farm must take direction from the county’s Board of Health. Apparently, the Board of Health in our county is not crazy about small farm stores and they shut their kitchen down for a month and a half. The reason was not because of food or customer safety, instead the county was concerned about where gray water drains. As a result of this decision the farm lost much of its profitability.
I realize that this could happen to any restaurant or other establishment which serves food because food safety is important and some people try to get away with crazy things – just watch Kitchen Nightmares (salty language if you follow the link, you’ve been warned) and you’ll know what I’m talking about. ACK!
Buying fresh, local ingredients directly from farms and/or farmers’ markets you trust is an ideal way to know you are getting quality, clean, safe food. Why? Because you can ask the source directly how the food is grown and make the judgement call for yourself. In some cases you can even take a tour of the farm to see for yourself (fun, sometimes free, trip for the kids!). This weekly activity also helps you understand and appreciate the hard work that goes into growing produce and raising cows, poultry, pork, etc. for you to eat.
We watched the movie Food Fight (2008) this weekend and learned a lot more about the politics behind big agribusiness.
Did you know that the amount of food produced by agribusiness in the US today equals about 6,000 calories PER day, PER American? One person only needs about 2,000 calories per day. There is an overabundance of food that is not good for you – why? The objective of the Department of Agriculture was to facilitate the production of cheap food and allow agribusinesses to be profitable (they changed it slightly recently, I believe). That doesn’t sound like a very health conscious, quality objective to you, does it?
The movie also talks about literally tasting the difference between an agribusiness tomato from the grocery store and a fresh organic tomato from the farmers’ market. The tomato from the farmers’ market is much more flavorful, colorful and attractive to the taste buds. As it should be!
Listen folks, we have taste buds for a reason – they guide us to the salty, sweet, and fatty things in nature that are good for us! The bright, deep colors of fruits and vegetables are no mistake either. Nutrient dense food is pleasing not only to the taste buds but to your eyes as well. Have you ever cut open a tomato from the grocery store and it looked white inside and then tasted the nothing? Ick! That means it is not packed with the nutrients it should be if it were grown in healthy soil and from a non-GMO seed. Why waste your money on that?
I have never been a very political person, but everything I have learned over the past 4 months has taught me more about where and how to spend my hard earned money. I can either invest it in agribusiness food and pay for the medical bills later. OR, OOOOOOOORRRRR…I could spend a little extra time each week sourcing the good, nutritious stuff from a local farm.
Unfortunately, I can’t help but get frustrated with the politics of it all. Hearing the story about my farm and how a new law negatively affected their business is confusing and at the same time very wearisome. I wonder, how can I make a difference?
The answer is simple. Vote with my dollars.
Every time I pay $.50 more for an organic tomato or splurge on the 100% grass fed beef and pastured eggs, I am casting a vote for better quality sources of food. I volunteer my time at my farmers’ market on Saturdays because I believe our farmers need all the help they can get. I am also not afraid to ask the right questions of my farmers to know I’m buying healthy food.
Are you wondering what you can do too? Here are a few things…
First, find a local farm, CSA, or farmers’ market go to:
Next, ask the right questions:
- Do you spray your crops with any herbicides or pesticides?
- What do you feed your cows? Are they confined in feed lots or free to roam the pastures?
- What do you feed your hens? Are they confined in pens or allowed to roam the pastures? (Chickens are omnivores, you don’t want your chickens eating a vegetarian diet, they aren’t vegetarians. You also don’t want them eating soy ’cause it is probably GMO)
- What do you feed your pigs? Are they confined to pens or allowed to roam the pastures?
Another thing I do is plant a garden in my backyard. It is a lot easier than it sounds PLUS a recent study shows gardening may help prevent depression. Pretty cool.
Beets, spinach and dill, guard dog, cherry tomatoes, scare crow, cucumbers, green beans, and basil.
What are some questions you ask your farmer?
See you at the market!