Teach Them Well and Let Them Can the Beans: The First Step Toward an Inevitable Collision with Ideal
For my big-boy job (a term of art that I have shamelessly stolen from friend and NY Times bestselling author John Gilstrap---whose books you should buy and read), I do a crazy amount of travel. Recently, I flew to Dubai and back over the course of a weekend. How did I spend all of that time in the plane? Using Audible, the most underrated app in all of the app kingdom. That tool is literally how I find myself using time not only on planes, but in my car, and anytime that I can use headphones. It is how I am trying to absorb all the farm science that I can. Lucky for audible, my brain is feeble, so I have churned through quite a few homestead-improvement books hoping that even a bit of it will stick.
One theme that pervades all of the books that I have "read" is that we as humans--and specifically Americans-- are out of balance and out of touch with the genesis of our food. I am not an idealist, nor will I become a food nutcase (famous last words), but many of the arguments that are made in books like Folks, This Ain't Normal by permaculture expert Joel Salatin (I have other recommendations, if you care) are very practical and thought-provoking. Why is it, for example, that schools in Montgomery County, Maryland (my previous county of residence) are NOT ALLOWED to cultivate gardens that produce food? Do city kids not need to be aware that carrots grow in the ground? Why does government actively impede the generation of local food (I know the answer to this, its just disturbing)? And how is it that the overwhelming majority of intelligent adults couldn't tell you the first thing about the vegetables that grow in their area or which part of a cow produces the beloved Filet? Look, I am as guilty as anyone. I lived on fast food for nearly the entire year before I moved back to Ohio. Now that I have been exposed to these questions, I find myself wondering if we can reel this back in even just a little bit.
I am not ready to go on a wild pilgrimage of local-only food, nor will I admonish anyone that buys a box or six of Stouffers French Bread Pizzas (cause I probably will too). I do, however want to be part of a solution that leads a healthier way of thinking about food for my generation, and the ones that are still here when I am, myself, part of a vibrant vermaculture process.
With that I have put together the three word mantra that I would like to inspire what I do here, no matter how big, or advanced, or diverse the operations get: Educate, Produce, Sustain.
Educate: I want to learn as much as I can. I will learn on the fly, I will screw it up, I will try again. As important as my learning is, I want others to experience these processes. I want my family and friends to try, fail, succeed, learn, and most importantly, enjoy with me. If I have my way, my niece will never look at a packaged chicken breast in a store and wonder where it came from. I am happy to do the hard work, if it means I can get kids to enjoy and embrace the fun, but educational work.
Produce: I am lucky that I can do this as a hobby, and don't have to rely on income from production to keep doing it. That doesn't mean that I don't want to see, and experience the fruits of my labor. I want to roast chickens that were raised here, and I want to preserve and enjoy vegetables and fruits that we cultivated here. I also want to be a contributor to the community. I have put a lot of time and energy into finding and considering ways that this land can be a local contributor. There will be more on this, but as usual, I don't want to put half-assed ideas on my half-assed blog.
Sustain: My big boy job is in the recycling industry. The phrase du jour in that industry is "Circular Economy," well here we will practice "Circular Ecology." I'll save the details on that for another exciting post that I can give to you in picture form! We will avoid chemical adjustments and inputs except to alleviate animal suffering, and we will do our best to let nature rule the roost.
Finally, I will do my damnedest to learn and utilize ways to preserve produce as long as possible. Drying, canning, smoking, cold-storage techniques--imagine kids understanding that Del Monte isn't the only option for vegetables.
This will all take time. It will all take energy and lifestyle changes, and I will suck at it for the foreseeable future. Eventually though, Educate, Produce, Sustain will be more than words in the Wordpress cloud.