Baby Steps

I think we could all agree life is a journey.My husband and I are not your dramatic, dynamic people who can make a polarized decision overnight, even when we begin to feel it’s for the best. We take tiny, hesitant baby steps towards our goals or ideas.

When we were first married both of us knew junk food=bad health and healthy food=equal good health. We didn’t know the endless ripple effect our choices could cause. We didn’t know the staggering percentage of our food came from enormous government-subsidized “farms”. That those fields of turgid vegetables were sprayed with wildly toxic pesticides and insecticides and the seeds were being fused with genes. We had heard of GMO’s and of the importance of washing produce but we didn’t know the reasons or the why’s behind those words.

We didn’t understand that politics and money control the purity of our food supply and that those two tend to be irascible bullies that ignores our nation’s failing health. We had no idea what monster Monsanto had created with its petroleum based sprays and seeds that were ineffective after one crop or if not grown with Monsanto pesticides. We didn’t know about the often appalling treatment of farms workers or the devastating impact on our environment from agricultural pollution and water diversion.

We didn’t know the condition or the feeding of the animals we ate. The filthy conditions, the unnatural feed they are fed with that creates a host of health problems in the animal itself, let alone the humans that consume them.

Radishes peeking out of the carefully tended soil

We didn’t understand that shipping produce from thousands of miles away has a negative impact, especially when those Chilean tomatoes, or Mexican cucumbers can be grown locally. That the lower price does not reflect environmental costs, the impact on local farmers, and ultimately the impact on our health to eat fruit and vegetables that have lost almost all their nutrition in the mass growing, shipping, and sometimes months of cold storage.

We didn’t know that just being focused on finding the cheapest food added to our ignorance about the true costs of food production.

Bounty of green beans

And then we began to run across ideas and information that began to take us by surprise. Food Inc. was revolutionary for us. Although we continued to grocery-shop at Wal-Mart, a bastion of big-agriculture, knowing what went on behind the glossy scene of waxed fruits and plenty; we found ourselves slightly repulsed that we were putting our money into an unsustainable, unfair system.

Mark & Janice

Our neighbors, small, diverse farmers pioneering the urban lots of  the decaying Eastside of Buffalo, further enlightened us. We would have conversations about what we were discovering and they would gently share their years of experience in farming and the simple, incredible joys of eating locally. (http://wilsonstreeturbanfarm.wordpress.com/)

They helped us imagine… a salad, picked only that morning, grown in soil enriched not with artificial vitamins, but with compost from vegetable scraps, how much nourishment that would bring not only your body but renewal to the soil we depend on too.

Raised beds filled with organic vegetables

We began to make decisions that affected our food bills. I was absorbing information as rapidly as I could find it and soon we were both convinced that typical mega-farm milk was not something fit for our daughter (just Eden at the time) to drink. We bought organic milk, bringing our milk from $2-2.50 per half-gallon to $3.99 for the Organic Valley brand. Our meat choices changed from purchasing 10 pound bags of chicken breasts to small amounts of recently available organic meats. We had to learn to eat much less since we were paying easily double the price per pound. For over a year we ate supermarket organic meats until we were able to save up enough to invest in 1/4 of a local, grass-fed cow.  We eventually found chickens available through the dedicated farmer who supplies our raw milk.

Slowly we began to transition from conventional items to organic and try to buy locally through seasonal farm markets, and berry picking. We became convinced we needed to live more simply along with these changes to our diet. For instance, instead of spending $5 3 or 4 times a week just to buy sprouted bagels, we now order bulk 25-50 pound bags of organic grain through our co-op, grind the berries in our mill and make batches of our own soaked-grain bagels. Instead of buying my favorite whole milk Stonyfield yogurt at $4 a quart every week, I use some of the raw milk and make my own 1/2 gallon container of thick, perfect yogurt. Of course, this happened over time, it wasn’t always simple to start a pot of yogurt. I would hold my breath for months every time I cracked open a jar after incubation to see if had set properly.

These are some other transitions we’ve been working out:

  • Making our own berry-flavored water kefir instead of buying bottle after bottle of juice for the babies to drink from their sippy cups.
  • Making raw milk probiotic kefir from a culture given to us rather than purchasing the often sugar-laden varieties.
  • Canning a low-sugar strawberry jam for the first time instead of buying.
  • Canning two kinds pickles, this could be counted as a failure because they were mushy and most of them are still sitting around but I choose to benefit from the learning experience!
  • Canning peaches, a messy job, but rewarding because we haven’t bought a single can of peaches. Few things taste as special as the sunny taste of ripe peaches in the middle of winter.
  • Ordering from a co-op, this is saving us so much more than just scooping bulk items out bins at the store. Plus, everything is fresher.
  • Buying bulk organic pasta and choosing to work with just what we have rather than longing after the myriad of fascinating shapes.
  • Buying reasonable-priced raw honey from a local bee-keeper instead of spending on a pasteurized, enzyme-dead product, often collected from a multitude of places.
  • Shopping for seasonal vegetables, instead of buying tomatoes all year, only buying them in season. Here in NY that means July through possibly early October. This has taken self-control and has encouraged a broader range of cooking, but mostly, it adds anticipation to eating the first asparagus, strawberries, or peas of the season.
  • Joining a CSA. This was too easy, having our dear neighbors farming organically in the empty lots behind us, offering us a stellar bounty for an extremely reasonable price.
  • Buying organic spices in bulk from canisters at a local health food store. I got pretty fed up with paying $8 for a miniscule jar of some spice that I would empty in 4 uses!

And I’m sure this is just the first of many small steps in our journey…

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This entry was published on May 10, 2012 at 3:14 am and is filed under From My Soapbox, The Basics. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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