Someone once asked me why I felt compelled to grow my own food, specifically meat animals, instead of just going to the store and buying the organic no-antibiotic no-hormone no-GMO food. We get this sort of response a lot when we share that we grow our own. Because obviously farmers are a little bit crazy in the head to take on so much work for so little worldly gain. Because we must be some kind of monsters to raise and tend these animals and then, horror of horrors, slaughter them. Because YOUR chicken nugget comes from…….where………hmm??…….?? I’ll wait……..
Look. The answers to this question are many. Maybe I’ll discuss some of them later. Here’s the answer I want to discuss right now: because someone has to.
Firstly, someone has to grow all of our food. Actual human people. And while there are a handful of us self-sacrificing monstrous weirdos out there, the size of our group is dwindling frightening quickly. Go ahead and google the average age of a farmer right quick.
Secondly, someone has to grow our food responsibly. Humanely. Sustainably. Someone has to take on that responsibility. We top of the food chain humans like to forget that we’re animals. We ignore that we are creatures of this earth, connected and fully integrated into it. We forget it completely. We enjoy our greenway nature walks and our perfectly manicured lawns and our botanical gardens and feel refreshed by mother earth (don’t get me started on the level of human maintenance in all these places). And we forget our total utter reliance on her. We forget that at our most basic visceral selves we are creatures dependent on the natural living web of life around us. Outside of our human social web. Someone has to take on the task of working with our earth mama to ensure reliable and sustainable sustenance for us all, preferably without poisoning the water and sending all our topsoil out to sea.
You should probably also know I am bred to be a farmer. My father has spent his life living and working a commercial poultry and beef farm. Sometimes it’s been picturesque. Mostly it has not. This piece of my background is tremendously relevant. I have seen precisely what commercial food production looks like. And smells like. And feels like. It’s certainly not anything I want a part of. My dad would tell you the same. He is the poultry farmer who under no circumstances eats chicken. So it’s no great wonder that I love the land and the animals and hate the commercial process. I feel the pull of the fulfillment that comes from doing something primally necessary, no matter how crazy it may look from the outside. And, like many a younger generation I think somehow I can do better. Time will tell. Ask my kids in 30 years.
That’s not to say I’ve always wanted to grow my own in such a serious manner. Or your own for that matter. That journey has been long and winding. A story for another time perhaps.
A while back a friend encouraged me to compile a list of the things that make me happy. So I did. It was a clarifying little exercise. Within my top ten were being outdoors, breathing fresh air, and observing our farm animals.
If not me, then who?
Additionally, my partner in life has a steady paying job. These days it’s near impossible to farm without some kind of outside-the-farm subsidy, especially to get started. When we were still just considering the 100 acre farm I kept thinking, who else can take it on except someone who is committed and willing and marginally knowledgeable and who can also carry the mortgage? Someone has to take on this farm or a developer will. And it will cease to be.
So if not me then who?