Book Excerpt

Hope everyone had a wonderful, tasty-food filled Thanksgiving. I took some pickled okra, fudge, and dinner rolls to our Thanksgiving festivities in SE Missouri. The okra was from the first batch I made in mid-August. I thought it was very mild, but Matt’s grandma took a bite, squinched up her face, and declared, “There’s jollopenos in there!” The fudge was no family recipe; I used the simple recipe on the bag of Hershey’s chocolate chips. It was pretty good, but not nearly as good as my grandma’s recipe. But, that recipe uses terms and techniques (softball state?) that I am unfamiliar with and will have to try out at a more un-critical time (like not for a holiday meal at my husband’s grandparents’). The rolls were the big hit. We brought a dozen white and a dozen wheat rolls from Harvestyme Bakery.

A month or so ago I read Holy Cows & Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer’s Guide to Farm Friendly Food by Joel Salatin. I highly recommend this quick read to get riled up about the contents of your refrigerator and pantry. I had to share several blurbs from this straight-talkin’ farmer on the benefits of participating in your local food system. Joel Salatin is a farmer in Virginia. He’s going to be speaking at the 2008 conference of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network.

Excerpts from Holy Cows & Hog Heaven (2004) by Joel Salatin:

On commitment to appropriate size:

“A farm friendly producer does not bury his community in excrement and toxicity in order to grow government-subsidized food for someplace halfway around the world. Neither does a farm friendly producer bury his community in foreigners who overload the school system, overload the social services, and overload the courts. A food system that cannot hire its neighbors is exhibiting characteristics of an empire. An empire has no soul, no conscience, no boundaries. It simply wants to take, to grow, to conquer.”

On the biological nature of food:

“What feeds these [3 trillion] bacteria [in our gut] is not Archer Daniels Midland amalgamated, reconstituted, chlorinated, extruded, extracted, adulterated, irradiated, genetically prostituted, inhumane, globally transported, disrespected protoplasmic pseudo food.”

On the East vs. West:

“But just because we can, should we?…Just because we can feed corn to cows, should we? Just because we can plow up a 25-acre field and plant it in strawberries, should we? Just because we can airfreight certified organic cut flowers from Lima, Peru, to San Francisco overnight, should we? Just because we can ship certified organic yogurt from a Vermont dairy to Sacramento, should we? Just because we can buy San Joaquin Valley certified organic tomatoes in New York City in February, should we?”

On compromise:

“None of us is completely consistent. While this book deals with the optimum, all of us live in the real world of compromises. Of course you’re going to be traveling sometime and stop at a burger joint. Of course a Super Bowl party requires pizza and Coke. But exceptions are not habits. And if the ideas espoused in this book became habits while the mainline habits of our culture became exceptions, it would fundamentally change our world.”

On being connected:

“How many public hearings and meetings have been organized to encourage government regulations against poultry confinement houses, cattle feedlots, or pig factories? If all the attendees would focus their energy on banning those products from the school lunch program, meals on wheels, the political party fund raiser, or their civic club’s menu, their efforts would probably yield faster results. The gross margins in the industrial food sector are so small that a once percent change in sales is a huge shakeup.”

On getting acquainted with the kitchen:

“Farm friendly food is minimally processed. The more processing, the less percentage the farmer gets. The less the farmer’s margin, the more he has to produce. The more he has to produce, the more industrial he becomes.”

On decentralization:

“If you had four families, each taking a weekly turn procuring everyone’s groceries, that would be twelve trips out a year. Is that horrendous? I’m not prepared to statistically defend these trips out compared to all the tractor trailers that come in the food, and right now that is not important because efficiency never comes at the front end of a new paradigm. Creativity is inefficient.”

On cheap food:

“This cheap food policy is only an illusion, of course. When people ask why our farm’s pastured-based meat and poultry is more expensive than what is in the store, I quickly respond that it is the cheapest food around. Our food does not result in fish kills from lagoon blowouts at pig factories. Our food does not contain pathogenic bacteria that account for half of all cases of diarrhea in this country, according to the Centers for Disease Control….

“On our farm, we receive no government payments and require no regulatory oversight. Our food will not make you resistant to antibiotics… Our poultry will not make your daughter reach puberty at 8 years old. Our farm will not necessitate government officials launching a costly investigation and litigation against us for stinking up or otherwise polluting the groundwater. We don’t dump so many non-English speaking workers into the community that the school district loses 30% of its classroom space to English as a Second Language.

“When you take all the societal and government costs associated with cheap food, you quickly realize that the really honest-prices fare is substantially higher than what is at Wal-Mart. When we buy the industrial stuff, we are simply asking society and our taxes to pick up the slack for irresponsibly priced food. We can either decided to patronize an honestly prices food system, or a dishonestly priced food system. The decision is that simple.”

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