Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Recently I finished reading Joel Salatin's Folks, This Ain't Normal. Throughout the book he discusses a number of aspects of our lives that have moved far from what he considers normal (and to be fair, is historically normal). I have to hand it to him, he's done his research on the subjects he presents in the book. The essence of the book is that we have moved away from homesteading and sourcing locally, which is historically normal and a lot more ecologically sound. He also talks a lot about the struggles that small family farms face in a society that is driven by industrialism.

Some of those struggles include the hardships they face in trying to work with certain restaurants. At the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Conference, there was a session that discussed this very subject. The speakers mentioned that there are no laws that regulate a restaurant from buying produce directly from a farm. However, for some restaurants, the cook does not have control over where the ingredients come from. Some restaurants have contracts with distribution centers that restrain them from being able to accept foods from outside sources. As Salatin pointed out in his book, there are a huge number of hoops to jump through in order for a farm to add their produce to a distribution center's roster. This is due to most of the regulations being based on large-scale agriculture operations, which are more easily able to pay the high costs involved.

For restaurants who do not have this type of contract, their ability to buy produce and meat from local producers is less limited. As the speakers at SSAWG mentioned, it often comes down to whether or not the chef is willing to put in the extra effort. The sad fact is that most chefs are not willing to put forth that effort or the extra cost to buy local. The same could be said of most citizens as well.

It is rather fascinating that the current idea of normal imports food from so far away when Arkansas is an agricultural state. Being a southern state, we should be able to grow food year-round. From the looks of the recent weather, I'm sure there are many of you who are doubting the validity of that statement. The problem with growing all our own food is that we would have to revert to a seasonal diet. People as a whole are so used to the world market that many have lost sight of seasonality and the importance that it should play in the way we eat. Food grown in season is more nutritious and tastes better. Would you rather eat a tomato that was picked half ripe and ripened in a truck on it's 1500 mile journey to your grocery store (which Salatin points out is just another distribution center) or would you rather eat one that was picked at the height of ripeness in the field right outside of town?

My preference definitely lies in fresh food, locally grown. Or food that was jarred at the height of its ripeness and preserved for lean months. Perhaps we are beyond the normality of sustainability, but I would like to keep hope that people like Joel Salatin or the farmers at SSAWG will continue to teach people so they can make an informed decision. Perhaps some day I will be able to assist in this goal as well by teaching people how to garden in their home spaces, no matter how small or large.

Another point that Salatin makes in his book is that people always excuse themselves by saying they don't have time. His point is that if we take away people's televisions, how many hours would that add to their day? The excuse of having no time is really the excuse of priorities. If we took more time to care for the Earth, by gardening and cooking fresh foods, perhaps we would even be happier as a whole. I take pride in everything I accomplish with my own hands, be that building a chicken coop or picnic table out of recycled pallet wood, growing my own garden, or cooking any meal. It leaves me with a feeling of purpose, which is more than I can say for anything else I do with my time. Perhaps that is normal.

No comments:

Post a Comment