Unwitting Mentors


            Each year, we make a trip (now two) to Newville, PA to get meat from Nature’s Sunlight Farm.  It used to be one, because when we first started on this food journey, the Nolts were only producing veal, as a by-product of the dairy.  As they have expanded their product, we have expanded our shopping list.

            We always come away from the farm with some new lesson learned.  There was never a time when we weren’t greeted by one of the Nolts with a firm handshake and some time to talk.  And forget being excited by a clearance rack at Nordstrom’s, bring on the milk shop at their farm.  I walk in and start doing math in my head and spend every last dime of the budget on milk, cheese and other goodies.

          About five years ago, the goodies included a book called, Everything I Want to Do is Illegal, the implications of which are fodder for another entry.  Mark said to me, “Oh Joel Salatin.  He is very interesting” and proceeded to explain who the man was and what he meant to grass-based farming.  Honestly, I picked up the book because I thought the title was hilarious.

            As I watched Mark speaking about Salatin, I saw a glint in his eyes.  His voice grew more and more passionate as he explained why a grass-based system was so important for the entire food chain, from the grass itself, all the way up to the people who are consuming the eggs, chicken, veal, milk, cheese, etc.  He made the whole thing click in my head.  Choices and consequences:  how we choose to produce our food has a longer impact than what most people ever think about.  We live in a culture that lives for instant gratification, so the instant hunger is sated the consumer stops thinking about the food, and rarely considers the long term impact of its production.

            If that is true, then maybe the converse could also be true – if we get more people to think about their food, where it comes from, how it is produced, maybe we could improve the food system.

           I am not stupid and I realize that in an instant gratification culture people do NOT want to drive three hours to get their meat.  But the more people who do make the choice, the more demand there is for the product, the more people will realize that farming can be lucrative, that a small farm can survive and not be a part of the huge AgriBusiness that fuels industrial food.  Very slowly we are seeing this: more and more small farms popping up all over the country. The more grass-based farms we have, the less of a drive people will have to get this kind of food.

            I am an American, proud of the freedoms upon which this country was founded.  No matter how much politics have perverted it, I still have faith in the Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is [the people’s] right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”  The Industrial Food system has a long train of abuses and usurpations.  At the rate that the food giants continue to buy one another, we will soon find ourselves under a food despot.  As Henry Kissinger said, “He who controls the food controls the people.”

            The capacity to “throw off such government” is already ours.  If you don’t like the person in office, vote them out.  If you don’t like who controls the food, vote with your dollars and spend them elsewhere.  That is an overlooked beauty of the capitalist system: every day is election day when you spend with a purpose.  You only need know who owns what!  I vote to support farmers like the Nolts who care about the food in such a way that it creates a new vision of food security.



2 thoughts to “Unwitting Mentors”

  1. Many cogent observations and points well taken, but you are correct when you observe that not too many of us will ride such a distance for their food.

  2. However, the more people who do take the ride will encourage more young people to seriously consider farming as a career. The more small, local, clean farms, the less driving those of us who desire good clean food will have to do.

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