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thank a farmer

August 19th, 2009 at 08:16 pm

I was reading another poster's blog, talking about how high the cost of all organic, all local, all natural food was in New York. I offered a suggestion that she could start a container garden, or freeze some of the produce that she got during the season to stretch it out over the year.

That suggestion was made in good faith.

However, I have been reflecting over her post for a couple hours now, and I have a slightly different take on it. I didn't think I should impede on her blog with perhaps a contentious post, so I thought I should make my own entry. For the record, I am not attacking her. I have just been ruminating on people's buying habits and what people expect.

I started to think about how our grandparents (or great grandparents...how ever far back you have to go) used to do things. They didn't buy food at the grocery store every couple of days; they grew it (vegetables, fruit, grains), raised it (animals for meat, chickens for eggs), ground it (flour), milked it (cows/goats), baked it (bread) etc all themselves, or did without. They also dried it, smoked it, salted it, canned it, or hung it outside in winter to freeze it. If they had tried to buy everything, it would have been cost prohibitive. And they took a lot of time to do these things...I imagine back in the day leisure time was a commodity not many had.

So what makes it possible for people to not spend that much time procuring their food? Modern farming. Modern farming is why you don't have to spend $1200 a month for nutritious food for 2 people, but can if you choose. Modern farming is why you can play on the internet, exercise, have hobbies other than hunting/fishing/gardening. Modern farming is why you can live hundreds or thousands of miles away from where the food is grown, in fact, maybe not even know where it comes from (milk comes from a cow, not the grocery store). Modern farming is why food costs (the actual commodities, not the processed result) get lower and lower when compared to inflation, due to the ground getting more productive, plants getting higher yields, producing more bushels / acre than ever before.

People like to disparage modern farming techniques, saying things like "we are cutting down forests" etc. That is not true it the U.S. There are more trees in this country now than there were 100 years ago. Modern agriculture is sustainable on the ground already in production, or less as the years go on, with such techniques as rotational planting (growing plants that replenish the ground with nitrogen...soybeans and others), letting the ground rest every couple of years, controlling noxious and other bothersome weed with judicious use of herbicides, and continued improvement of plant seeds.

In short, I guess, thank a farmer for providing you with good, inexpensive, healthy food, so you have time and money to do other things. If not for us, everyone would be spending >$1200 a month on food for 2.

8 Responses to “thank a farmer”

  1. baselle Says:

    Thank you, cptacek.

  2. miclason Says:

    If I had to grow, raise, etc my own food, Id be thin, and, not just because of all the exercise. I get tired just thinking about doing all that work! hm.... maybe Id barter cooking and cleaning for food? (you grow it, I cook it, sort of thing!)

  3. Nika Says:

    My grandparents also did these things. We had a garden with many pecan trees, best apricot trees in the area, sour cherry, apple, pear, white plum, blue plums, raspberry bushes, greens, tomatoes and cucumbers. As a kid I helped tie up tomato plants to the poles and look for eggs in hen house. So I know where the food comes from, and how it is supposed to taste.

    You could smell a fruit or a vegetable from across the room. It was juicy, tasty, delicious. Food in supermarkets is nothing like that. Not even organic.

    Yes, we are very efficient in producing food, but the quality has suffered greatly. The way things are grown, poultry and lifestock is raised....

    True, we have a huge population (that will double by 2050) to feed so we can't farm like our grandparents did. (Though in my experience, better produce is more widely available in Europe.)
    I am worried that our health is at more risk with commercial food production.

    Affordable, poor quality food is better than hunger. I agree with that.
    I understand that even though farming is heavily subsidized people with lower income cannot afford quality food and rely heavily on processed. Go into a supermarket, most of the foods are processed. So good food is a luxury.

    Besides the money, you have to work at it. It is not available everywhere. For example I have to buy most groceries after work in Manhattan, not in the area where I live. Produce is of poorer quality here.

    Eating healthy also requires continuous education and balancing: benefits of fatty acids in salmon vs. mercury levels, vitamins and taste of a peach vs. its higher pesticide retention, is eating certain vegetables unpeeled better due to nutrition or worse due to pesticides, etc...

    Very often you can't trust nutritional benefit claims of the product. Keywords used do not necessarily mean what people believe them to mean.

    And another thing, maybe related, maybe not: from my very close and small friend and family circle 4 people died from cancers of digestive track. 3 of them in the last 2 years. There is no evidence that this is the food... I don't know. But there is something wrong. 3 of them were not old. It did not happen with such frequency before.

    I also dont mean to attack you, I just believe this discussion is of interest to you.

    As for "thank you", to me it is on a very individual, case by case basis. I can thank a nurse for her dedication, and it does not mean I don't see major problems with our health care system. No group of people is the same or does the same things for the same motives.

    It is late, I'm sleepy, and getting less and less coherent. Smile

  4. creditcardfree Says:

    Thanks for your insight!

  5. ceejay74 Says:

    miclason, I totally agree! I went strawberry picking at a farm outside the Twin Cities last weekend, and my thighs were sore for two days from all the crouching and standing. Smile Well worth it, but I'm grateful to people who pick strawberries for me, including the amazing organic farmers who deliver my veggies and some fruit throughout the summer and fall.

  6. gamecock43 Says:

    I have always shaken my head in amazement at the price of food. I pick up an apple at the grocery store and imagine how it was picked by a person, stored, then packed up to be shipped, shipped in a truck cross country, unloaded, and put on display in the store...all for less than a dollar. And on top of that the grocery store is making money off the sale! Good grief- that just blows my mind.

  7. cptacek Says:

    Glad for the discussion, and thank you, Nika, for taking my post in the spirit it was intended. Smile
    I know that vine fresh, picked-at-its-peak is your choice, and you are very conscious of what goes into your body, so of course you know where food comes from. I think the point of my post is that while you can choose to do things the way you do, Americans don't have to and still get high quality nutrition. And that is pretty awesome.

    I think that foods that are in season at the grocery store actually don't taste that bad. Now, tomatoes in December? That isn't natural and it doesn't taste natural, more like cardboard.

    I do have to take issue with your "how livestock is raised" throw away comment. I raise livestock, and we take good care of our animals. It doesn't make ethical or economic sense not to! I wouldn't say we "love" our animals, but we know that they depend on us to provide them with food and water, to protect them from blizzards, keep them healthy and keep predators away. We are good stewards of them, and they provide us a living and others a meal.

    I think a lot of the problem with people buying processed foods isn't the price...it is people not knowing how, or not willing to put the effort in, to cook!

    gamecock43, that is exactly what I am talking about! If you really think about how much work goes into getting any food to your plate, it really is amazing.

  8. Jerry Says:

    I think that people are becoming less connected to the source of their food, and it leads to mindless consumption. If people thought about farmers, and about buying locally grown produce, and about what is best for their bodies (and even, yes, growing some of their own food) they would have insurance that they would 1) have better food, and 2) appreciate it more. We are looking into a freezer so that we can save some of the produce we are picking this summer for winter enjoyment, as a matter of fact! Great thread, by the way.
    Jerry

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