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Eat Local…Buy Seasonal…Get a Freezer

July 13, 2012

Shortly after I married my wife, we were given a small chest freezer.  Our first house was small and the freezer ended up in our bedroom, quietly humming us to sleep every night.  That small freezer kept us going for a long time, even as we started to purchase beef in bulk.  Last year, it was becoming clear that it was just inadequate.  We branched out and purchased a large upright freezer.  They sit together in the basement, like R2-D2 and C-3PO, humming together and keeping a variety of things ice cold.  We have had a couple of scares, lost a few items of food, but overall, we couldn’t do without them.  As we ended our season last fall, the freezers were organized, cleaned, and filled to the brim with chicken, pork, beef, and other fruits of our labors.

I heard the other day that in the 1930’s, every calorie that went in a mouth took about half a calorie to get there.  Today, every calorie takes about 15 calories (yes, that is 30 times the energy).  A big part of that is the distance our food travels, either from the West Coast, South America, or even the next state.

We produce chicken from April to September, about six months.  When we process the last of the flock in September, that’s it; no more fresh chicken for six months.  On the other hand, a grower in Florida might just start producing in September, when it gets cool enough to keep the chickens alive.  Why don’t I just buy chicken from him?
For centuries, it has been the practice to produce in the summer and store for the winter.  Go re-read Farmer Boy or The Little House in the Big Woods and try not to get hungry (and envious) as the attics and cellars get full to bursting for winter.  Thanks to the modern supermarket and truck drivers across America, we don’t have to do that anymore, food is always there (using the term “food” loosely).  So why buy a freezer?  Why store food?

photo credit: Chiot’s Run- A chronicle of an organic garden

Even as I ask myself that question, the answer is clear to me, it is basically our mantra here at Haelen Farm:
Eat Real Food, Know Your Farmer

This means you know what is in your food and you know where it is coming from, what they believe in, and how they operate.  If you do not know, then you are putting your trust in something you cannot see and cannot validate. Does the spinach have e-coli?  Does the beef have mad-cow?  Were the chickens given antibiotics (even though the package says they were not)?  Essentially, you have to put your trust in the modern American food system and the complex maze of regulations that are meant to protect you, but often fail to do so.  At the same time, it drives up the cost of food, highway maintenance, automobile accidents, and other hidden cost relationships.

Ultimately you have to put your trust in something, like you trust me when you pickup your chicken, pork, or eggs, so the question is not if you should trust or not.  The question is, what is the basis of your trust?  In this day and age, it really comes down to sensing with your eyes, ears, and (most importantly) nose, in a relationship with your farmer(s) versus simply believing that the modern system works, with or without evidence (or over the evidence that it doesn’t).

Just so you know, we do go to the grocery store.  My wife picks a child of the week (and the baby) and heads out for an evening of roaming aisles, checking off items from her list.  We do not know where everything we put in our mouth comes from and it has not all been produced locally.  We understand that there are limits to what we can do with our time and money.  But we do try, we do think about it, and we make small steps.

A freezer full of local beef, blueberries, and green beans is a good start!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 13, 2012 9:22 pm

    I do realized how handy a mini freezer is, help to freeze all kinds of food that are not available in winter!

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