Quote of the Day


Vote with Your Fork! State of the Pantry Report

As we continue our efforts to disassociate ourselves from agri-business, believing it to be harmful to our personal financial and physical health as well as being harmful to the well-being of others (financially, physically, and environmentally), we are moving more and more of our purchases over to niche markets.

Here are our goals, in no particular order, with the over-arching consideration in parentheses.
  • to shun misery-laden production practices (personal ethical health, preservation of small parcel agriculture[usually]),
  • to shun edible-food-like products that have factory origins (personal physical health, personal financial health, regional environmental health*).
  • to shun farming practices that rely on the intense use of petroleum-based fertilizers (personal health, regional environmental health).
  • to shun foods laden with antibiotics and insecticides (personal physical health, community/regional environmental health).
  • to source our food from as nearby as possible (community financial health, preservation of small parcel agriculture),
  • to purchase it directly from the farmer or as close as we can get (community financial health, preservation of small parcel agriculture),

Here is our State of the Pantry report:

Goals Met:
  • Beef -- Misery-free grass-fed beef born, raised, and butchered in one set of pastures within our region. Purchased directly from farmer.
  • Eggs -- Our own misery-free yard-fed hens give us plenty of these.
  • Flour -- Organic regional flour milled by locally-owned flour mill.
  • Salad Greens -- Part of the year we grown our own. Part of the year we buy Earthbound mass produced. We don't feel good about the latter. More later.
  • Apples -- Purchased directly the non-organic, but watershed activist, farm 2 blocks away.
  • Milk -- Purchased from locally owned grocery chain who buys it from the dairy 8 miles from our home and sells it to us in recyclable glass bottles.

Goals Unmet:
  • Chicken -- yes, well, obviously I could raise and butcher my own, but that is not going to happen. Purchasing misery-free yard-fed hens from others is really expensive. I found some at the local butcher (by butcher, I mean a man in an building that is a killing house for animals, not the employee behind the counter at a store that sells quasi-edible-food-like products), but they were pricey. Right now, we do without it, but it is so handy for a quick stir-fry. What to do . . .
  • Salad Greens -- During the off-season we end up buying the Costco bulk tub of Earthbound farms, which is an organic industrial producer of baby salad greens. The greens are machine-harvested and trucked across the country. There must be a better way. Build a greenhouse and grow our own? Find a local grower of winter greens and hire them to grow for us? I need to study up on what winter greens could be grown here (note to self - review this part of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and see what she grew).
  • Other Fruit -- planted 15 new fruit trees this year. Must get up to speed on spraying and storing.
  • Bread -- organize time better to bake all of our own, not just some.
This started when I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. My goal then was to take a look at my shopping cart and to alter the proportion of what I used to call manufactured stuff versus real stuff, but what I now call quasi-edible-food-like products versus food. My first goal was half and half: no more than half the cart could be manufactured stuff. At the time, this seemed like an honorable goal. Looking back now, I am ashamed that I would allow that much quasi-edible-food-like products into our home.

When the half-and-half goal was met, I budged it over to 25%/75%. When that became doable, I pumped it up to only 1-2 indulgences per shopping cart (Heat-and-Eat lasagna or pizza for Crisis Nights). This means that I am buying mostly ingredients and only a little bit of ready made. Canned goods count as food, as does bread and other items that involve minimal manufacture. This may sound odd, but if it is something that I could make at home, it's okay to buy it. If is something that I would have no idea how to make (Twinkies, soda pop), then I probably shouldn't be eating it. I don't make tortilla chips, but I could, so those are allowed, as are beer and wine by the same token.

Then I read Omnivore's Dilemma and realized that it is my civic duty to get as far away as possible from the agribusiness food chain. Last spring we got chickens and doubled the size of our Victory Garden. This year I aim to bake more bread and can and freeze more produce as well as to whittle away at the "Goals Not Yet Met" list.

Are you changing your food habits? How so? Why? Are we part of a tide change? or is this a passing fancy?

*environmental health -- the packaging, the shipping, the trucking. All of these are wasteful of natural resources and are wasteful of my money. When I buy the food, I am paying for the packaging and for the long-distance voyage. Why would I want to do that?


Tom Christoffel said...

Hello -
Google’s Blog Search sent me to this your project because of the keywords "regional" and "community." This should be useful to subscribers of Regional Community Development News, so I will include a link to it in the February 8 issue. The newsletter will be found at http://regional-communities.blogspot.com/ Please visit, check the tools and consider a link. Tom

Shannan said...

Hi Suzanne-
I'm a reader of yours that lives in Salem, OR. I'm not quite sure how I found your blog - probably when I did a blog search on raising chickens (oh - how I want to do that). Anyway, I've been tuning into you and I have gotten some really great ideas from you. For instance, we started our sons on writing lines. Oh how they hate it, but oh how it works!

So I have to tell you my story. We lived in the Seattle suburbs for 15 years and we were consumers, consumers, consumers. Then we recently were transferred down to Salem,OR and right on the perimeter of farm country. I've never been this close to orchards, farms, butchers - you name it. So as the months ticked by, I got more and more interested in doing exactly what you are describing in your post today. In fact, this year we are taking out ALL GREEN GRASS from our backyard and replacing it with lots and lots of raised beds - practically tripling our victory garden! I can't even begin to tell you how excited that makes me. Well maybe you can tell because it sounds like you would do the same.

Also, I try as best as I can within the constrains of our budget and trying to feed four boys to be a responsible consumer and contributor to the planet. And it makes me so much more happy! I love supporting local farmers and agriculture and I'm really lucky that it is so near to me. I don't mind making everything from scratch - I mean, I'm home anyway and it helps my budget to do it from scratch and then I know what is going in my food.

I told my husband that I would really really love to have my own hens but he's not there yet. We buy local yard-fed eggs for $3 a dozen - the best deal there is.

Anyway, I'm right there with you on your thinking. Oh and my compost pile has been cooking all winter and I went out to turn it the other day and it is almost ready. I can't wait to spread it on my garden!

Cheers from Oregon!

Suzanne said...

Hi Shannan,

Well thank you for sharing. It's so gratifying to think that someone reads and enjoys my posts.

My husband wasn't opposed to hens, just to the building that he would have to do. Look back to last March's postings for the posts on the chicken ark that my kids and I built. It was my first building project. If I can do it, anyone can.

I love love love having hens. They are so personable and the eggs are so yummy. I sell them for $3.00 a dozen too.

Off to haul dirt,


Don Holmes said...

good work

Rachael said...

I grow herbs in an Aerogarden that sits on my kitchen counter. You can purchase lettuce and greens seed packets for it as well. I've heard (from a co-worker who grows them) that the lettuce does quite well in it.

Suzanne said...

I keep looking at the Aerogarden. Tempting.

Maria said...

I have been working on this for several years. We have been fortunate to live in an area where I can participate in a CSA and get enough produce through it to freeze and can for most of the year. It saves us money too.

We also have a lot of local farmers, and they recently have come together in a coalition that allows us to buy meat products directly from them, and our state has a co-op where I can get additional items.

I do purchase some items at a grocer, but I almost never go down the aisles and mostly limit it to fresh fruit in the winter, a loaf of bread (lasts us a long time...I freeze it and take out slices), and items in bulk (beans, lentils, etc).

Overall, I think it has made a big difference in our health and the environment and social justice benefits make it worth it!

jenny said...

This has reminded me that I have alfalfa seeds down in my seed cache and that sprouting them in the winter is a great source of homegrown greens. Toasted bagel with cream cheese, slice of tomato and alfalfa sprouts -- yummy! (hot house tomato though, although maybe I could try some my own dried ones).

Also, if you grow Swiss chard and kale in your garden and cover it with even a rudimentary cold frame, it will overwinter pretty well, or at least die back and then pop right back up again when things start to warm up in our climate. (that is, unless your husband mistook the Swiss chard for a weed and told you proudly in December that he had cleaned it out for you, in a fit of gardening fever.)

audible said...

I don't have a garden, but I do have a few large planters- which is as close to a garden this renter can get. During the winter I do collard greens. They're my favorite winter green and very good sauted with some local garlic and bacon fat.

Livin' out loud said...

Last night my DH and sat down to watch the movie Food Inc. It was recommended by another blogger friend...have you seen it? It will certainly change the way you view foods!

laurie said...

Growing the chickens to eat isn't as hard as you might think (emotionally) and they are so good. The chicken noodle soup is healing. If you buy "for meat" breeds and raise them, they're only around 8-12 weeks or so because they grow so fast. I found it easier to find someone to do the butchering because I couldn't do it myself (tho in a pinch, I probably could and I would like to get to that point because it seems more equitable for the chickens to not be taken elsewhere) and David, while willing, isn't around enough. When we raise chickens again, I plan on getting a bigger freezer and raising meat chicks. Knowing how they lived (happy chickens) makes their death easier to me.

As to the rest, I learned a lot from you. This year plan to can most of my veggies because the tomatoes I canned were far superior to any store bought. I'll probably buy them at the farmers market because I'm not sure I'll be around enough to care for tomatoes. Still looking into timed soaker hoses, which would make that possible. Eventually, we would like to pasture some beef here, but we have to improve the land we have. The man who took my chickens in wants to pasture beef here, so he may do that for us in exchange for use, and we'd get some beef in the deal.

I'm always amazed at the grocery store now, looking at the carts of others. So much fake food! I tend to buy mostly ingredients myself. Sometimes on lazy days it's hard to muster the energy to prepare something but I'm getting better at cooking multiples and using the crock pot. Makes lazy days easier!