Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jumping Ship on Factory Food

Have you seen Food Inc? If you haven't, eat a meal beforehand because afterwards you won't be able to.

Fresh, The Movie is a good one, too. Industrial farming is all over the news, from salmonella in eggs to contaminated feed lot beef. Its been nearly 5 years since we left the big city for the trials joys of small town life. In these 4+ years I've learned a lot about growing things. I've also learned about how most of the food in grocery stores is raised, making me want to grow more of my own stuff.

We haven't sworn off grocery stores for a year, although I kind of wish we could. Out here we lack the robust local food systems that places like Los Angeles, Austin and Portland enjoy. Instead my goal is to steadily reduce the things we buy from stores. Like...

1. Eggs
Just a few backyard chickens can supply all the eggs a family needs. They don't eat much and they're kinda cute. Just don't name the ones you might eat (see #6).

2. Salad greens
Have you noticed that smell when you open a bag of store bought greens? Ick. Easy to grow, quickly maturing, salad greens are something almost everyone can grow for themselves.

3. Potatoes
Okay, I did buy one 3 lb bag of red potatoes this year because I ran out of the ones we'd grown. They like loose soil but will grow nicely in a container or even an old feedsack. This year I have 10 lbs of Red Dale seed potatoes waiting to go in the ground.

4. Tomatoes and peppers
Yep, more stuff that's easy to grow whether you build a raised bed or just plant them in a 5 lb bucket. Commercial farmers have to spray their monoculture tomatoes with all sorts of nasty stuff but when you grow just a few for yourself they don't make much of a target for pests.

5. Melons
Okay, melons do take up a lot of room but a freshly picked cantaloupe is so good it will make your toes curl.

6. Chicken
See item #1. If you buy straight run chicks you will likely have too many roosters. They fit nicely in the freezer and are quite tasty.

7. Beef
No, we don't raise cattle. But there's a nice family down the road that does and we buy grass fed beef from them once or twice a year. Check craigslist, there may be a nice family close to you who does the same thing.

8. Fruit
This one is more difficult as we live in zone 6b/7. I grow a lot of the fruit we eat. The Farmer's Market is a good source but it only runs from June to September. So I have made good friends with my water bath canner. My pantry is full of jars of pears and peaches that will hopefully last until the early summer fruits are available again.

So we've made a good start. We still have to buy some things from the grocery but the list is getting shorter. The foods we produce or buy locally are a better quality, we're supporting local business and we are consuming less oil as our food doesn't have to travel so far.

Our plans for this year? Well, there are 6 fig tree cuttings happily rooting indoors in a pot of soil (thanks, Sal). I have apple and pear scions on the way and cuttings from 4 different kinds of currants. The seed collection has grown considerably while the chickens tear up and fertilize more of the yard for garden space. It's going to be a great year!


  1. We're doing the no groceries for a year thing. Yes, we're lucky to have food available all year long, but I don't think it's completely out of the question to do it elsewhere. My grandmother grew up in the Grand Tetons and they survived the "off" season with canned goods that they processed during the summer months and what they could keep in their root cellar. It takes a ridiculous amount of planning, but I think it's totally doable.

  2. Hi, just discovered your blog, love it! Funny thing, I just watched the video this week. It sure was eye opening. We have been making gradual changes each year and fortunately we live in an agricultural community (strange, as we are only 4o minutes from DC)so many changes have not been too difficult to make. Look forward to reading more and getting to know you. Happy New Year.

  3. HI Lorie, nice to meet you. Ironically, I also live in an agricultural community. Farmers here grow wheat, corn, and soybeans so right next door to verdant fields are families that don't have enough to eat. As the cost of transportation becomes more and more difficult to bear I believe we are going to see a major decentralization of the food supply. I believe we are going to see more direct sales from farmer to consumer and that everyone involved will benefit. What an exciting time to be alive.