Grit Blogs > City Gal Moves to Oz Land

Rethinking Our Food Supply

A photo of Oz GirlWhere does most of our food come from, and how has it been processed? I find this question occupying a significant portion of my mind these days.  I’m sure I owe some of my meditations to the ever-more-common media broadcasts of food-borne illnesses and large-scale contaminations.

In the past few years, there has been more concern about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our seed crops, along with a loud outcry against the abuse of hormone and antibiotic-injected animals in crowded, dirty feedlots. I know it’s getting more difficult for me to go to the supermarket and purchase vegetables, fruits, and meats when I know the processing methods are controversial or downright inhumane, and most likely harmful to our health.

Advocates for good stewardship of our planet, which includes a healthier food environment, have raised the public awareness about our industrialized food supply and all its connected society ills.  These advocates are tirelessly touting small-scale and sustainable farming as a way for us to get back to the local, seasonal and regional food supply with unending benefits for our health and our planet.

Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat

 

The book Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat heralds the growing movement of women who are at the forefront of changing how we eat and farm in the United States.  Certainly men are involved in this movement too – it’s just that women (as usual!) are not being given credit where credit is due.  For example, women are the fastest growing number of diversified farmers in our country, with a 30% increase in women farm operators from 2002 to 2007.

Think about it – women have always been the primary nurturer in the family unit.  Women have the largest impact and concern when it comes to what they feed themselves and their families.  So it only makes sense that they are the fastest growing demographic to own and operate farms in the U.S., and they are tending towards diversified, direct-marketed foods that create relationships with eaters.

Each chapter in Farmer Jane focuses on a different area of change – from “Building New Farm-to-Eater Relationships” to “Advocates for Social Change” to “Networks for Sustainable Food” -- you’ll read the tales of women working to bring sustainability back to our dinner plates.  Trust me, this book will inspire and motivate you to have more control over your own food supply.  To help you, there is a Recipe for Action at the end of each chapter – ideas for how you as an eater, a farmer, or an owner/employee of a food business can join in. Even if you have no desire to farm or garden, there are many tips in Farmer Jane on how to eat well and help your community thrive at the same time.

I haven’t even finished the whole book, and yet it has already affected my food meditations. We have a distinct advantage since we already live on 27 acres in the country, and our first garden this year produced a fairly bountiful harvest with enough to preserve for winter, plus we learned a boatful about growing our own produce and preserving it.  Now it’s just a matter of expanding upon what we are fortunate enough to have (27 acres) – the possibilities are certainly endless and limited only by our capabilities and time (ah yes, the TIME bandit!).

I always say “start small”.  I can’t change all our ways and [bad] habits overnight; if I try, I’m going to overwhelm myself.  But I can pick a few items to change each month so that I will rely on commercial, grocery-store products less and less as time goes by. My goals are to buy less at the supermarket and make or grow more things ourselves, or source them organically through fair trade organizations.  As an example, I can’t grow my own tea or coffee, so I will source them through a company that has an organic and fair trade philosophy.  I bought my first loose-leaf black tea from Arbor Teas today, so I can still have my delicious iced tea everyday.  No more supermarket tea for this gal!

Next, I want to experiment with making my own shampoos and conditioners, and eventually my own lotions and perfumes. Yes, I want to make and source more than just my own food! If I can grow my own lavender, that might dovetail nicely with making perfume in the future.  I’ve done a small amount of research into the how-to’s, and it all seems very doable.

Read this book, research other books on the food industry, and start your own mini-food revolt.  You vote with your dollars every time you buy either chemical or non-chemical agriculture.  Think about it – if everyone can afford new cars, the latest cell phone or other techno-gadget, expensive jeans and shoes, etc. – well, then, you CAN spend more on your food.  Eating organic, seasonal, fresh food does cost a little bit more.  It’s up to you what commands more of your earned dollar – fun new gadgets, or fresh healthy food?

Make a conscious choice and “vote with your fork” to eat for a healthy body and for a more sustainable planet.  And visit the Farmer Jane website to find out more about this timely and information-packed book, along with links to some fantastic sustainable food and farming websites.

missy lady
12/3/2010 2:09:04 PM

If you can raise herbs you can Make Your Own Tea and you can get tea bags from: Nichols Garden Nursery 1190 Old Salem Rd NE, Albany, OR 97321, United States all you need to do is add the dried herb and iron the seams of the tea bags. Plus, I love this company because they do not carry any GMO products. It is comforting to deal with a company that you can feel safe with. By making your own tea you know what really goes in it! Good luck.


s.m.r. saia
9/5/2010 6:28:06 AM

Oz Girl, great post. Thanks for the book recommendation!


cindy murphy
9/4/2010 8:51:50 PM

Nah, Oz Girl. We were all fine. No one got sick....remember, they are all used to my cooking; everyone here has iron stomaches. I thought it was pretty funny too, though I learned in the process to label my experiments.


oz girl
9/4/2010 8:20:49 AM

Oh.No.Cindy. Hydrogen peroxide is a vomiting agent... did you guys all throw up?! I'm sorry, I can't help but giggle a lil bit over here... sure hope it didn't hurt anyone!!!! :-0


cindy murphy
9/4/2010 5:48:14 AM

Oz Girl, I can relate to your sensitive skin issue. My eldest daughter has eczema; when we find something that won't cause an outbreak, it's something she sticks with exclusively. Here's the rose water incident - let it serve as a warning, lest you get too experimental in your home remedies, (eye-roll). Many parental moons ago, when she and about to enter the Intro to Sex Ed stage of her 5th grade career, I decided we'd have a girly night, when I'd ease the shock of what she was about to hear in class, and squash any possible rumors of what happens between the birds and the bees that she may have heard from friends. For the Big Event, I thought we'd make a rose water/oatmeal mask for our hands. The rose water recipe called for vodka, which releases more of the potent stuff in plants used in herbals. I can't follow a recipe while cooking, so why should this be any different. Improvisation is the key ingredient in my kitchen. I didn't have vodka. Whiskey? Tequila? I opted for rubbing alcohol; I didn't have that either. I settled for hydrogen peroxide. We had so much fun with the mask, we decided to do it again. I put the rose water in a bottle, stuck it in the fridge, and promptly forgot about it. Hubs, a few weeks later, put balsamic vinegar on the grocery list. "We have plenty", I said, pulling out an almost full bottle from the cabinet. Although the vinegar label was removed from the bottle, he'd used all the hydrogen peroxide rose water in our meals


oz girl
9/3/2010 8:57:52 PM

Hi Cindy... what incident with the rose water, lol??! I'm hoping I can try out my home remedies in the next few weeks. It will be interesting to see if I can find something to make the switch. I'd really like to find a homemade face cleanser and avoid spending the dollars I spend as I have sensitive skin. It's always scary for me to try new facial cleansers - I don't like to rock that boat! We'll never be able to grow everything we need, even with all our acreage, unless I can quit my job in the next few years. Farming/homesteading really can be a full-time job within itself, with plenty of overtime! :-)


oz girl
9/3/2010 2:05:41 PM

Hey there Dave, thanks for stopping by. Boy, I'm sure jealous of your basement. As an Ohio gal, I was sure accustomed to having a basement. Our Kansas house does NOT have a basement, nor a root cellar. Funny what you take for granted and really miss when you don't have it anymore. I've struggled to keep my preserved garden bounty in an appropriate spot in the house to keep them cool. And that is just so cool that you finally got to test your watering system and IT WORKED!! Wa-hoo!! :-) Isn't that the best sense of accomplishment when you create something with your own hands and then it really works the way you want it to? And even though your spread is small, I think it's amazing what can be grown on a small lot. Which just serves to make me feel guilty that we aren't utilizing our acreage to its fullest potential!!


cindy murphy
9/2/2010 8:01:38 PM

Oooooo - Farm Jane sounds as if it's going to the top of my "To Be Read" list...which seems to keep growing instead of diminishing any. I like the idea that it is for the eater as well as the farmer. While we vegetable garden, and have enjoyed that most of our vegetables during summer come from our yard, we don't have a large enough garden to supply ALL of our produce. And unlike Dave, I am not willing to sacrifice any of my shrubbery! But I am ALWAYS looking for ways have more control over what our family eats as well as benefit our community. Good luck, Oz Girl, in your shampoo and conditioner experiments. Be sure and post the results. That's something I've considered doing too, but haven't got much past the research stage. Oh - except that one incident with the homemade rose water....


nebraska dave
9/2/2010 6:23:11 PM

@Oz Girl, it sounds like you have struck a cord with Farm Jane. I get all inspired when I read new books about gardening and building root cellars in the basement and such. Your enthusiasm is rubbing off on me. I will have to start reading more books about homesteading. Even though my spread is small I still like to read about what others are doing with larger areas. Next year I want to start preserving more. I have thoughts about working on a storage area in my basement and will perhaps get it in shape by harvest time next year. Soon I’ll be working on expanding the garden with two more beds. I did what you advised and started with only one raised bed and built two more last fall and this fall two more. I may go into a holding pattern for a couple years. I have room for four more beds if I remove a bush which I’ve wanted to do any way but not for at least a couple more years. I’m having too much fun automating the whole process. My watering system performed wonderfully well while I was gone for two weeks. I’ll be getting a post out about it soon. Have a great abundant harvest day.


oz girl
9/2/2010 2:35:47 PM

Hi Vickie, I've really enjoyed this book. I have pages dog-eared and marked with post-it notes for future reference. There are some websites I also want to resource that were noted in the book. It's just a really great inspirational read. And yes, it sure does feel good to grow your own food. It's so empowering when you have growing successes. I'm also awaiting some chickens that we'll be inheriting from my husband's daughter in October, along with 4 ducks. And today I just purchased my first batch of guinea keets. I'll be picking up my 5 babies tomorrow or Saturday - they are either lavender or pearl guineas. Things are really moving along. Yippee-kye-aye!!! :-)


vickie
9/2/2010 2:30:42 PM

Oz Girl, That books sounds so good-I'll have to check it out at a local library. Doesn't feel good to sit down at the table and be able to say what you grew? Maybe not all of it but quite a bit can come from our backyard. We sit down to dinner today and had augratin potatoes with potatoes and onions grew in our garden. The we had boiled cabbage from our garden and sliced tomatoes. I always put an egg in our cornbread and now that comes from our chickens. It does feel good. But like you say one thing at a time or you'll get overwhelmed. Have a great day. vickie