“Know your food, know your farmers, and know your kitchen.” – Joel Salatin
Most Saturday’s I walk over to the farmers market from my house, and even if I don’t buy anything I’m looking for conversation. The beauty of markets such as these lies in the construction of a community, it’s the weaving together of people from various backgrounds for one common goal; to sell their goods to people in the area because they believe in what they produce. Buying locally takes on a whole new meaning when we consider food quality and our health.
Months prior to moving to Florida my Grandma told me about a woman who sold eggs, chickens and lamb at the farmer’s market. Knowing my interest not only in health but in sustainability she pointed me in the right direction. When I first approached Amy’s tent I gazed at the pictures she had displayed on a tall makeshift wall of the fields, lambs, chickens, how their farm works and the beauty of the land is an after thought in these photos. On that same wall she has a picture comparing the yolk of a conventional egg (literally sad looking too) and one of the eggs from her hens. The bright orange inside outshines the other egg as it pales in comparison. I knew we would get along after seeing this picture as it indicated to me her value in quality.
It seems like in the last decade the term “Buy Local” has blown up on the internet, bumper stickers and paraded around on more and more USA main streets across the country. It’s like not-so-secret club that everyone is welcome to join and I promise you want to be IN this club. As we talk about getting to know your farmer and why it’s important to shop at farmers markets and local stores we have to address the benefits being so much more than simply knowing the location of where your food comes from. It’s an important factor for understanding not only what it takes to make your food to appreciate it’s cost and value of course, but going even deeper this is why knowing your farmer is important for your health.
Whether we’re talking about vegetables or livestock, knowing where your food is grown or raised plays an integral role in understanding how it works in your body too. If you know who is raising the chicken’s for the eggs you’re eating with your bacon for breakfast, you have the knowledge to understand precisely how those chickens roam, what they eat, and inadvertently what you’re eating. Say you have a corn allergy but you’re buying eggs from the grocery store that are “free range” or “fed a vegetarian diet” you won’t know for sure whether those hens are eating bugs or are supplemented with feed, most likely made of corn. By reaching out to a farmer, you get to bond with the person whose hands tend to the animals that sustain your own livelihood, this is an education.
The power of food as medicine is unbelievable, but it would be incomprehensible without power of education.
Spending time at a farm has it’s immediate health benefits aside from empowering your healthy choices. Over the weekend I spent part of the day out with Amy at her and her husband Jim’s farm, A3 Farms. About a week before she told me that all the baby lambs had dropped and immediately I knew I had to go pay a visit. It was my second time out to the farm, but this being the first chance I really got to have the full tour.
As we walked along the fence where all the mama sheep and baby lambs lay, a few of the lambs galloped towards us. These in particular were ones that were neglected by mother, they knew Amy now as their mother and she was coming with bottles to feed them.
I helped her feed the babies and as they searched for the bottle they’d crawl in between my legs, rubbing against them similar to the antics of a cat. This, I learned is something they would do to their mother in search of milk.
Being around animals is therapeutic in itself and I felt immensely grateful to be able to give them love and nourishment. Just by being around them, outside, exposing myself to new things and learning my mood was elevated. By doing this it perpetuated my gratitude for the reciprocity of the relationship. I know that at some point these animals will serve to nourish others and while the animal lover in me screams, THIS IS SAD but the reason in me whispers this is why we take care of the world in which we live, because relationships are intended to be mutually beneficial.
What happens is you begin to realize the impact you have with your consumption of food. It’s not a passive action, as in some ways it can appear by strolling through the grocery store buying products off the shelves (hopefully, not) or even with produce that is labeled organic yet you aren’t entirely sure what went into the soil. As you deepen your relationship with the person who cultivates the food you buy you’re able to find gratitude for food that you’re eating as you begin to understand that you’re not the only one that matters in the equation.
Getting to know your farmer gets you out of thinking “self” and into think “us all” as you consider the animals, the farmer, the community and economy. It’s like a Newton’s cradle, by pulling one side of the ball or more than one ball the kinetic energy has to pass through every ball in order to reach the other end. It’s this velocity which causes the opposite ball to begin moving, simultaneously igniting the back an forth motion as energy is transmitted in this pattern. Every ball is touched by the instigation of the initial energy and each plays a part in order for the them to continue in movement.
If we’re adamant about knowing where our food comes from we must actually seek it out so that our farmer’s can continue to grow organic vegetables and raise quality livestock. We have to step outside of how we currently understand food in this day and age, and instead into the root of the process to grasp our part in it all. I know, not everyone may have direct access to go out and spend a day at a farm, but nonetheless getting to know the farmer’s at your market will help you in facilitating a connection to deepen your relationship with what you’re feeding yourself.
Spending time with another living thing is about forming a relationship, time is money and if you’re asking me, time is the most valuable investment. When you give someone the opportunity to share their story with you, you’ve slipped a coin into the jukebox of their soul.
That day as I helped Amy bottle feed a few babies she explained their farming practice and the process she goes through every year during the spring. This year she had 52 babies, with one being still-born. Later in the spring she will go through the shearing process with the older sheep. In the summer she has a lot of work ahead of her as they will prepare to check all the lambs for worms and parasites, which she says can kill many of them if she doesn’t get them at the right time. As we talked I learned more about her passion for sustainability, knowing that she can provide for her family and friends no matter what happens is where she finds comfort and what made her fall in love with farming after years working in the corporate world. This type of security is invaluable to her. But, what I also learned is her dedication to food quality. We bonded over her reading the Primal Blueprint and when I shared about having an autoimmune disease and using food to restore my health she instantly opened up about her own journey learning to understand how food works in the body, and then wanted to know more about what I am studying. This moment was the beauty of vulnerability acting as the bridge to connection.
It’s from this conversation, the egg picture on her stand, and now having seen first hand, I know everything raised on their farm is given the utmost love and care. Her priority is quality. The beauty of knowing your farmer in this way is that there is no guessing. No wondering whether something is organic, or grass-fed, or raised in a cage. You’ve now armed yourself with another tool in your arsenal for combating health challenges, you can feel sure that your choices are solid.
Forming a personal relationship with a farmer and the animals they raise causes you to value their livelihood and appreciate the cost of what they produce. Through knowing the food you’re eating from them will nourish your health but affect many more than you. By knowing your farmer you’re giving back on a much larger scale, it’s an investment in “us all”.
Have any of you been out to visit farms, gotten to know your farmers? Share your experience in the comments below!