Every bite matters.
I wanted to take the time to tell you how wonderful you all are. (I have the ability to rant and ramble so I could write a novel about why y’all are so fabulous that you spit glitter, but this week I am going to talk about bacon, and how y’all are helping change the food system through bacon, of all things.)
First I have to explain that there are a million things wrong with the way our food systems operate in America at the moment. So much so that I can’t spend a lengthy time thinking about it or I get a little sad. When you have “food” at the grocery store that doesn’t even resemble anything of nature, or has been mutilated from its natural state so much that it can sit on the shelf for years it freaks me out a little. What freaks me out even more is how we got there and what we sacrificed as a society to make all that happen.
I grew up on a family farm. I know firsthand the struggles these small famers face.
When my father died my mother had about a thousand acres, yet we went hungry. That’s right… land land everywhere and nothing to eat. Why? A broken food system and impossible odds for those that do not comply with the conventional norms of farming. My family farm is in row crop country. To operate a row crop farm you need equipment- combines that cost more than a house, money for seed (if you don’t buy Monsanto seed they WILL come cause havoc for you), planters, and tractors. The inputs of conventional row crop farming are crazy. Now, why didn’t she reinvent the wheel? Well, had she grown a 1000 acres of tomatoes who would have bought them? There are no logistics set up for people that want to challenge the norm. Those tomatoes would have gone rotten in the field because there was no way to get them from the farm to someone’s table. Side note here to explain that this may not make sense in the city where things are close but in our small town of 600 the nearest airport is 3 hours away and 600 people can only eat so many tomatoes.
Whereas people that grow row crops have a market for their crops the day they come out of the field. You merely drive your grain truck to town to the local elevator and they cut you a check for those soybeans or field corn. Now before we go throwing stones at farmers that farm this way please note that the logistics are in place and have been cultivated through years of economic push from both corporate conglomerates and our government to make it nearly impossible for a farmer to do anything other than farm in a way that is not good for them, their land, or for our society as a whole. You think a farmer WANTS to grow row crops, and GMOs, and spray their land from here to high heaven? Um, no. I think my brother said it best when he said “Sis, all I want to do is earn an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. I don’t want subsidies, I don’t want to row crop, and I am not even trying to get rich. I just want to work my land and not starve my family in the process.” More on my sweet souled brother and all the sacrifices he and his wife make so that he can follow this dream of farming the way he wants in another post.
Back to the point. Food system and logistics = broken. So, how do we fix it? Well, one bite at a time. There is no easy fix, there is no magic bullet. Even if we passed major legislation overnight to outlaw row crops or something we would have a problem. Our farmers would go bankrupt because they would not be prepared for that change and then there would be no way out for them. We have to support these small farmers as they make the journey and take the risks to make changes to our food system. In the produce world we have made major strides with CSA (community supported agriculture), box programs (like Space Girl Organics), farmers markets and such. We are creating local hubs for farmers to sell their produce. In fact, because of your patronage I have been able to sit down with different farmers and help them understand that if they grow it, we will buy it. If they go to the lengths of changing to certified organic, they will have a market. Be happy in your hearts folks, you have done that. Your buying power, collectively, makes me a heavy weight in the industry and this girl ain’t afraid to throw that weight around to help a farmer make a life they want.
However, the meat industry still needs help and lots of it. When 4 companies control over 80% of the meat processing in our country you know things have gotten scary.
However, don’t lose hope. We cannot change the world overnight but we sure can try and every drop in the bucket is a drop closer to where we need to be.
The bacon!!! The heavenly awesome bacon story.
When I first met with Lake Meadow Naturals earlier in the year they did NOT offer nitrate and nitrite free bacon. They grow wonderful dirt hogs (raised outdoors the way they should be) have awesome pork products but the way the bacon was cured was not nitrate and nitrite free. So, here is what we did (by we I mean you- the consumers). We supported Lake Meadows by purchasing their other products like grass fed beef, and chicken, and requested the bacon to be nitrite and nitrate free. Now Dale, is a great guy and he wants to offer you that bacon. However, it is not as simple as him getting up and saying “Today is the day, no more nitrates.” If only it were. You see he had to work with the processor to change the solution they use which is costly because it has to be tested and approved by the USDA. Then, he has to change his label on his bacon and even that is a hassle because it also has to be approved by the state and is costly. After, and only after he has gone through all these hoops will he have this bacon to sell. The next issue is now that there are more costs associated with the bacon will he have a market to sell it at a price that doesn’t make him go bankrupt?????
Well, that my peeps is where you all really get to shine. You have risen to the challenge. You have and continue to eat bacon. Now, I understand not all of us are meat eaters, but those that are- get your bacon on because you are putting drops in the bucket every time you do.
In closing I say this: When I was a child I would whine a lot. Poor me, why me, why are we so poor, why do the kids pick on me… blah blah blah. My mother would say, “ You have a choice. You can whine and complain and that is ok. I won’t judge because you have been dealt a bad hand. Or, you can decide to raise above your raisin’ and be somebody. Don’t like it, change it. Don’t like the injustice of it all, do something about it. The choice is yours.” So now, as your food mama, I say the same thing to you. We can fuss and throw stones and get all sorts of upset about everything that is wrong with our food system or we can be part of the solution. And you, are part of the solution. That is what you are doing. Please know that you matter. Your food choices matter. If y’all weren’t with me on this journey I would be one crazy lady out there in left field but with you, I am one among many and we are a force to be reckoned with.
So go on…eat up and know that you are awesome!
From the heart,