I have a microwave which I use to reheat my cup of tea about 5 times a morning. My kids eat the odd hot dog when we travel for horse shows or hockey. We had a movie night the other night, and I had to buy 4 different bags of Doritos because everyone wanted their own kind. I sometimes will serve them all take out if I am knee deep in preserving 50 jars of homemade salsa. Judge me if you will. You will never be as hard on me as I am on myself.
So this post comes from a place firmly on the ground. I am not on a high horse or in a fairy world where I am embarrassed of our very real life.
Connection to our food has never been more important than now. It’s like being woke up one morning, our eyes were open, our brain fog cleared, and our pocketbooks were ready to make better choices. Is it because we have more time or were we just that ready?
Choices include taking the time to connect with those growing and producing our food locally. It’s a win-win for everyone: the farmer finally being hailed as essential; the consumer connecting with farmers and producers around them for their food security and better quality; the local economy being stimulated by the influx of consumers shopping local; and the earth benefits from the decrease of transportation and greenhouse gas emissions.
Having taken three years of Business courses at university, I know it’s not that simple. But I think the connection to our food is that simple. We all need food according to the heirachy of need :food, shelter, water at the top of the pyramid . So why has it got so complicated to reach out to farmers and source local food when things are “normal”? Did we stop trying ? These aren’t rhetorical questions. I really want to know.
I can always choose to eat local. We all can . Do I always want to eat local ? No I don’t. But if I want to have a choice I need to do better. I need to purchase local when it’s not always easy. I need to do better: do we need fresh strawberries in February? I can certainly get them easy enough. At the local grocery store, trucked in from Mexico to Barrington. NS, who will keep stocking them as long as we buy them.
No, I can choose to thaw the strawberries in the freezer I put up last year from our local UPick. A little more work but Jackson, the man who grew those strawberries, over 50 kms away from me, is out there at 3 am on nights with frost to protect his plants. I know his passion for growing the best berries has been unwavering for decades. I have been to the farm, talked with him about the latest agricultural practices and soil health. I’m sorry but those store strawberries from Mexico?? That is cheating on Jackson’s berries. And I can’t look at those berries in my fridge knowing I could have helped Jackson replant another field by putting my money into his farm and insuring he is still growing next year.
Out of bacon from the pigs we raised last year ? Devastating but it happens. I can just do without (never an option to do without bacon ) or call up my friends who also raise pigs Evan Kleiner (Kleiner Farms ) or Trevor Perry (Forest Hill Farms ) and buy from them. Because I know they agonize over the care of their animals, and how to balance better grazing with the bottom line. I want to invest in their farm for next year and their plans because I want them to keep going. (And I can also be better prepared next year by buying an extra piglet from my friends Zarah and Anthony). Or once again, I can hit up the grocery store who may be selling bacon from my farming friends but most likely not. I can’t be unfaithful with bacon either.
I seen a meme by a fellow farmer : “it’s not that hard, you call up a farmer and you and your friends order a side of beef , who takes it to the butcher. you pay the farmer for the side , and the butcher for the cutting and wrapping.”
It may not be hard, but in our world today, the world of working full time, school and extracurricular commitments, who has time for more connection ? Connection has a cost , as does everything. And it has been costing farmers dearly. They have been here the whole time, you see. Growing and producing , what we say, as a consumer we want. But we also want it to be easy. When I sell a side of pork, I warn people it’s a process but it’s worth it for the taste and quality. And they know me. They know feeding people is my passion. Often after the first package is opened I get a message from them saying “Make sure I’m on the list for next year.”
Food security is a fear of mine, and I’m not sure where it is rooted from as we never went hungry as kids. I grew up on one dirt road where my whole extended family lived and farmed.
I think my stress over food security stems from where all stress does : resisting what is. What is normal is for US TO KNOW AND TRUST OUR FOOD CHAIN and that means to know our farmers.
What is natural for me, and all I ever knew is this :
We ate well as children. Garden fresh vegetables in the spring, summer, and fall and then preserved for winters served with protein from either our farm animals or wild game and fish. Raw milk from our cows. Apples, pears and plums from our big orchard. We would stop our bikes and eat from the grapevines on the stonewall, and berries from the woods and sides of the roads. We certainly didn’t wash them first. Better caked with a little dust and warmed by the sun . Corn from the Valley truck that parked in town when it was in season. Strawberries, so many eaten right from the field you think you would turn into one. We didn’t run to the grocery store if we were out of something. We rarely ate out. We simply ate what we had.
Sounds like a self sufficient food utopia even to me and I lived it. I truly believe it’s the way it should be which is why I feel anxious if we go off the rails with food here. It feels wrong.
Even if you didn’t grow up like this, resisting what real connection to our food SHOULD BE, results in stress. And stress has a very real cost: your health. Real connection is natural and feels good. I have no concrete studies to link to back this up , and I know they are out there however I give you Exhibit A :Covid 19.
When the world went off the rails, we starting baking bread, getting chickens, growing gardens, and reaching out to farmers. I know this because I have answered more questions about all these things more in the last two months than the last decade of me raising my own food and food for others. And I have many farmer friends who are experiencing the same connections (joyfully, I may add).
But we are all holding our breath, hoping it lasts. Farmers are a realistic bunch.
When I was poor in university (or chose to spend my money on more important things like vodka and lime at JJ Rossys) I ate steak I had brought from our home freezer rather than spend money on campus meals.
To this day, I cannot smell vodka without gagging. Yet, my connection to the family cow has endured for decades. You just can’t resist what is.