Want to know a secret? For a year or so when I was younger I swore off beef. I had spent a week on a dairy farm and got rather attached to the calves that were born. But I knew that all the male calves were going to be sold for meat. So I refused to eat beef, not wanting to eat my little friend.
I eventually ate beef again, but that same little girl who refused to eat her friend still pops up from time to time. Like when I would buy eggs. Given the option, I'm much happier buying eggs from cage free chickens than ones that live in cramped quarters. Call me silly, but I think that an egg from a happy chicken is better than one from a depressed chicken.
In December, I picked up a copy of a book by a favorite author, Barbara Kingsolver, about her year of living off her own farm. It's called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and it tells how she, her husband and two daughters raised their own food for a year. They grew a garden, raised chickens and turkeys, made their own cheese even! What they couldn't raise (flour and milk were big ones for them, as they didn't keep cows) they bought from other local farmers.
Now, I don't live on a farm, but I took some big lessons away from this book. Food tastes better in season. I know, that makes sense, but how many of us pay it heed? We are so used to having tomatoes available all year, even if they taste like water and aren't any shade of red. It's crazy. The cost of transporting food, along with the time it takes, means that most of our food isn't really fresh. We are quickly driving hundreds of varieties of produce to extinction. When this country was first settled, there were so many varieties of tomatoes and lettuce and potatoes and squash--but now, with huge farms and the desire to make the perfect plant, we grow only three or four varieties.
Since I don't live on a farm, I can't exactly grow everything I eat. Let's face it, the foxes would kill any chickens I tried to raise, and I don't have a good record with gardens. But that doesn't mean that I can't make changes to how I eat.
So for the new year, I'm resolving to eat local whenever possible and eat in season. I'm going to support the farmer's market--putting more money back into our local economy, into the hands of families that are keeping some of those endangered varieties alive (it's funny, to help keep them from going extinct you have to eat them!). I'm going to support restaurants that use local produce and meat. And I'm going to eat in season as much as possible so I can really appreciate the food I'm eating. I'm going to find meat that is raised locally on cage-free/free range farms.
Is it going to be easy? Not likely. Will I have to pay a little more for my food? Probably. Am I willing to do that to make sure that I'm eating local, eating meat raised in humane and healthy conditions, and that my food isn't causing pollution and waste from being transported halfway around the country or world? Yes, I am.
Want to join me?