I thought the above statistic was shocking. Over the past few decades, we have lost so much! We ask our kids where a tomato comes from, and most will say from the grocery store. Seriously, they will. Ask them. And in our chicken nugget, chicken breast world, many kids don’t even know chickens have bones. Ask them that too.
We really need to re-think how we think about our food. With the slow disappearance of the family farm, we’ve forgotten where our food comes from and when giant food corporations take over, as you all well know, it just gets ugly from there.
I used to pride myself on being cheap – especially when it came to groceries. I’d go to the cheapest grocery store I could find and brag about how much money I was saving, but in the past few years, I have learned at what cost? After researching what is happening to our food, I was horrified. I was putting my family’s health at risk while trying to save 50 cents here and 20 cents there.
I realize now that I vote with my wallet every day. When I shop, I am either encouraging factory food or encouraging small farmers who care about our food. It’s really all up to us! We have doctors and dentists and hairstylists who we choose very carefully, yet we trust large corporations to make the “food” that we put into our family’s mouths every day. Many of us have lawyers, mechanics and accountants, but we also need our own farmers! Better yet, we need to grow our own food, but if that isn’t possible, we need farmers we can trust so we know exactly where our food comes from, and how much more important is food than a good haircut?
REINVENTING THE FARM
It seems that the world has gone crazy – especially the world of farming, but I did find good news! I came upon a man who I believe is a modern day hero whose name is Joel Salatin. He is a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is visionary farmer from Virginia. I believe his farming practices will help save our soil and our health because we can all eat safe, clean food again!
He writes numerous books that we highly recommend such as “Everything I Want to Do is Illegal,” “Fields of Farmers,” “You Can Farm,” and, my personal favorite, “Folks, This Ain’t Normal.”
I’d like to highlight some of what Mr. Salatin says because I believe his message should be spread far and wide. It’s a common sense message that has become lost because Big Food wants us to believe otherwise.
He states in “Fields of Farmers,” “The average age of a farmer today is 60 years old, and according to agricultural statisticians in the next few decades, nearly 50 percent of farmland will change hands. The question is who will they hand off their land to? Do we want things to keep going as they are, or can we do better and pass off our valuable land to a new, younger generation of farmers who want to heal our land?
THE LAND FEEDS THE ANIMALS, AND THE ANIMALS FEED THE LAND – IT’S THE BEAUTIFUL CYCLE OF NATURE!
Grass and grazing animals turn the land into a huge living compost pile.
In Salatin’s books, he talks about the wonderful cycle of how land and animals work together to make a better farm and more fertile soil. He discusses the perfect cycle of how the land feeds the animals and the animals feed the land. Manure isn’t a curse. It’s a blessing. He also discusses how we need to honor and respect the “cowness of the cows” and the “pigness of the pigs” – and how each animal uses their own special talents on the farm. We just have to figure out how to make the best use of what those talents are, and in doing so, we don’t need as much machinery – which means less oil changes and broken parts. Let the animals do the work!
For example, he states that instead of mowing and bailing a lot of hay and bringing it to the cows; instead, rotate the cows in different pastures (or paddocks) and let THEM do the mowing. Then, you only need to make enough hay to get them through the winter. Next, have the chickens follow them. They’ll use their beaks and do their hunting and pecking thing finding the fly larvae that is created from the cow pies and they’ll eat other flies and mosquitoes that bother the cows. He then talks of his pigs and how they act as little plows with their snouts rooting their way through the winter cow bedding in the springtime after the cows have gone to pasture. Salatin layers corn inside the bedding which also serves as a winter insulator for the cows. In the spring, the pigs get to play hide and seek for the corn and in so doing, create a beautiful compost that can be used to make such beautiful, fertile soil that can only be described as nutrient-dense chocolate cake crumbs! It’s not rocket science. It’s common sense, and it’s been done this way for centuries.
At BeefnBeaks Farm, we’re not there yet, but we are definitely working towards this model of farming for sure. I’m still working on the hubby to get a few hogs! We do have our farm kitties living near our “grainery” in the barn so that they can catch the mice that love to hang out there. We’re figuring out how all the animals and land work together. This, folks, is normal, and definitely the way it oughta be.
HEALING OUR LAND
As farmers, we have to ask ourselves – are we healing our land? Are we leaving it better for our kids and our grandchildren or are we making it worse for them? We don’t own the land – we are only the custodians for a few years. Are we treating the soil as a living, growing biological community that needs to be nourished because it ultimately sustains all of us for all time?
Last summer my neighbor asked me what we were growing in our field, and I answered, “That’s barley – we feed it to our chickens.” Then she asked, “Well, what’s that dark green stuff out there?” and I said, “Those are weeds.” Like Mr. Salatin said, “It’s not normal to have thousands of perfect rows of corn and soybean fields planted year after year without rotation and with no weeds.” Weeds just aren’t normal anymore, I guess.
ARE YOU EATING LIVE FOOD OR DEAD, FAKE FOOD?
Something else I had to ask myself – was I eating and serving food to my family that was helping us to be healthy and thrive or were we eating processed dead food? The answer for me was clear. If I could put the food on my kitchen counter and it would go bad after a few days, I was eating good, living food, but if it just sat there forever, I was eating dead, fake food. Food factories seem bent on making our food lifeless. For example, they take the minerals out of salt and put them into vitamins leaving our salt devoid of any nutrition whatsoever. Please only buy Celtic or pink Himalayan salt. Your salt should either be gray or pink in color – never white! Have you ever wondered why white salt is so cheap? It’s because there is nothing left in it that has any value. I guess the least they can do is sell it cheap! And salt is NOT bad for you! The good stuff is loaded with excellent minerals that our bodies really need, so there, go ahead, add the good salt, and enjoy your food again! Salt is normal!
Grocery stores weren’t even around until the 1940’s, and if you really think about it, that is not that long ago. Before that, what did people do? They grew their own food and preserved it. Their grocery stores were their root cellars! Again, normal – STILL normal! What’s more comforting than shelves filled with preserved food for the winter?
Food factories now actually remove the nutrients from our food and add “synthetics” (whatever that is) to create “shelf life,” but there’s no life in it at all. If food can’t perish, it isn’t giving you life. It’s dead. If the food you buy has an “ingredient list” that you can’t pronounce, know that you are eating chemicals. Trust me, they can’t pronounce those words either. We can only be as vibrant as the vitality in the food we have decomposed in our digestive systems. Real food helps us to grow new cells, new hair, new skin and it helps strengthen our bones. Dead food can’t do any of that. A homemade cake made with raw ingredients will only last a few days, but a Twinkie? Well, you’ve heard the stories. Then, there’s the fast food hamburgers and chicken vs. homegrown grassfed beef and chicken. Yes, you’ve heard those stories too. Am I perfect?? Do I only eat perfect all organic food? Gosh, no! I know that I still have a long way to go! I struggle like everyone else – it’s very difficult to resist all that’s out there, and who knows, maybe I’ll be the next cancer victim – all I can do is try my best.
Another question Mr. Salatin asks is “If we have kids, do they spend more time playing video games than doing chores?” Kids not doing chores isn’t normal. He suggests starting a garden with them, or if that’s not possible, have them start a business or work on a farm. We farmers are always looking for help! Every kid should know how to grow their own food, weed a garden, butcher a chicken, or raise goats, pigs and cows. Every kid should know where their food comes from and should have a healthy appreciation for what it takes to raise good food. Better yet, encourage them to be farmers when they grow up!
WE NEED MORE FARMERS
I’m glad it’s cool to be a farmer again, (well, at least I think so!) because honestly, like Celebrity Chef Mario Batelli, states, “Farmers, not celebrity chefs, are the true rock stars of the food world! If you don’t have quality ingredients, you can’t have a quality meal.” Everyone knows how difficult it is to be a farmer, and everyone complains about the cost of organic food, yet many of these same people live in houses with huge yards that could easily be converted to gardens, yet they aren’t. Why not? Because they know it’s hard work! It’s a lot easier to just mow the lawn and sit back and complain about the cost of organic food, which really isn’t that much more expensive than conventional food, by the way. I say stop complaining, and be happy that somewhere out there – there is a farmer who is happy to do the back straining, mosquito swatting work of weeding their gardens and selling their organic vegetables to you! Their hard work should be rewarded! I’d much rather pay them for their work than pay a food conglomerate who doesn’t care what you eat. We need more farmers, especially young farmers to grow good, safe food. A statistic I read just last week said that 30 percent of the farmers today are women! Girl Power!!! Yay!! Maybe it’s moms who want better for their kids. I hope so.
Salatin states “The soccer moms are always saying “My son is going to be an engineer when he grows up, or someday my daughter is going to be a famous pianist, but what’s wrong with saying “My son or daughter wants to be a farmer when they grow up? It’s the most important job in the world, and parents with a farmer for a child is the most secure parent in the world.” Yes.
LET’S GET BACK TO OUR KITCHENS AND HAVE MORE RIGHTEOUS FOOD
We need to get back to our kitchens and cook and bake from scratch again and learn how to preserve our food, and we need to buy organic food whenever possible. All those pesticides and chemical ingredients build up in our bodies over time and create cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and strokes. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of getting phone calls and emails or newsfeeds saying “I have cancer or my friend had a heart attack.” Food can be our medicine or our poison. We make that choice every day. Remember, years ago, it wasn’t called “organic food.” We didn’t need to throw that fancy term around – it was just called food.
Something we can do is vote with our pocketbooks and help support small, local farmers who truly care about what kind of food they raise, and starve the soul-less food giants. When you go to the farmer’s market and you see beans or cucumbers are in season, instead of buying one pound for the week, buy ten pounds of them and then freeze or can them. Most farmers have so much produce that goes to waste that they might even let you go to their farm, pick your own, and then give you a discount! And, what’s easier than making a quick stir fry or a crock pot filled with grass fed beef or chicken and some real veggies from the garden? All of these are living foods!
We can also be sure to eat real meals that don’t have an “ingredient list.” We can encourage our kids to become farmers or at least encourage them to have a healthy appreciation for it by working on a farm during the summers. If they learn how to grow it, prepare it and preserve it, they will create great memories with it and will want to continue to do it when they are adults, and maybe someday we can have fields of young farmers out there caring for our land, eating healthier, and teaching the following generation to do the same.
Together we CAN make a difference!
Join the local food revolution and don’t forget to eat your veggies and good beef and chicken, too, of course!!
Live, Laugh, and Farm!
Farmer Kris 🙂