I believe in knowing my food. Not just where it came from, but how it came to be. My desire to know my food goes beyond the obvious health benefits of limiting my intake of chemicals and harmful bacteria. I want to have a personal connection to what I eat.
My family has a big garden. We grow, harvest and process most of the vegetables we eat. I consider myself to be a gardener, but for me, it’s no hobby. It’s a core part of my being. I don’t garden because it’s fun (it is, but that’s not why I do it). I NEED to garden—to dig my hands into the soil—to smell the earth and get it stuck under my fingernails—to plant a seed, water it, weed around it, and worry over it through the summer until I can reap its bounty at harvest time.
Every year I’m filled with wonder when one little tomato seed grows into a plant that provides an abundance of food for my family. I freeze, can, and dehydrate home-grown produce every summer. Nothing pleases me more than stepping into my root cellar and being greeted by rows upon rows of glass jars filled with home-canned goods that my family will eat throughout the winter.
I like to eat meat. I made peace long ago with my status as an omnivore. I don’t eat just any meat. I avoid buying meat that comes from animals who lived out their lives in crowded feedlots eating feed designed to maximize growth, not taste or well-being.
I know my meat. Our family raises chickens, ducks, turkeys, and pigs. The beef we eat comes from the organic farm next door. The animals I eat live great lives. They run around outside, forage for tasty weeds and bugs, and enjoy our family’s leftover food scraps. Some of them even like being petted or having their bellies scratched.
Even though our animals live the good life, they are NOT pets! From the time we get them, the whole family knows that the purpose of raising these animals is food. We take butchering very seriously at our house. I have tremendous respect for the animals we raise. We do our best to give our animals a happy, healthy life. We thank them for providing our family with food, we end their lives as quickly and humanely as possible, and after months of hard work, we fill our freezers with tasty, healthful meat. Just as I harvest tomatoes after tending that little seed, I harvest meat after nurturing those baby animals through to adulthood.
I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious. I don’t EXCLUSIVELY eat food I raise myself. I like a Diet Coke and a bag of Fritos as much as the next person. And…I realize that raising food isn’t for everyone. But if you’ve never tried it, I think you’re missing out.
Knowing my food keeps me connected in a powerful, spiritual way with the natural world. I’m aware of the weather and the cycle of the seasons, because they have practical relevance in my life. Right now my garlic and asparagus are sleeping under a blanket of snow, waiting to poke up through the newly-thawed earth once spring arrives. The baby chicks I fussed over all summer are now teenage laying hens, sassily clucking and strutting around, pretending to be all grown up as they lay their first, tiny eggs.
I believe that knowing my food enriches my life. Whether it’s feeling the amazing power of a pig’s snout when it nudges me to say hello, or the fresh, bright CRUNCH of a sugar snap peapod eaten right off the vine, my food fills me with awe and wonder. There are few things in this world more satisfying than reaching into a chicken’s nesting box on a cold winter day and grabbing an egg that’s so fresh it’s still warm. It’s like holding a treasure in your hand.
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