Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On Food, Culture and Me (con't)

Writer's note: this turned into a bit of a manifesto - sorry about that. In lieu of this, I am posting portions, not the whole thing - so as not to overwhelm completely.

Alex had bought me this book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and her family. It's a memoir about moving from Tuscon, AZ to a small town in Appalachia (Virginia) and living on a farm and producing all their own food. They essentially become "locavores", partaking of the food produced only within 100 miles of their home. Living in a farm community, this isn't very difficult for them once the growing season is underway. The family grows their own veggies and fruits, raises some chickens (both for food and eggs) and turkeys, and buys only locally grown meats, milks, cheeses, etc. for a whole year. I devoured this book. I absolutely ate it alive. I couldn't put it down, and then, as I approached the end, I savored it, making the last few chapters last a couple days. What Kingsolver and her family write about is astonishing. We are rapidly losing the genetic diversity among our crop plants. They are rapidly becoming genetically modified devils of corporate America, heavily subsidized to grow corn and soy which is processed to make such evil things as High Fructose Corn Syrup and feed for animals that do not normally eat corn and soy. Animals are bred to be heavier, filled with more fat and are fed on mostly corn diets, which poultry and cows have a terrible time digesting. They are filled with hormones and antibiotics to the point of ridiculousness and are crowded into horrbile feed lots, where they stand in piles of their own excrement, confined until they can (almost mercifully) be led to the slaughter. Poultry will often not see the light of day in their entire lives. Turkeys are bred to be so ridiculously breast-heavy they cannnot reproduce on their own. What kind of a life is that? How can you ensure the persistence of a creature, animal or vegetable, when it cannot reproduce by itself? What kind of monsters have we created? Not only is this true of animals, but also of vegetables. Certain companies (look up Monsanto, for one) sell seeds that are genetically modified to be resistant to their companies’ chemicals. Farmers cannot save seeds from the crops from this year to plant next year. They must invest again to buy seeds from that company again. Sound ridiculous? It is. And, it's subsidized by the US Gov't. Go figure. While completely supporting local farmers might not be in the financial cards for me, I will definitely buy meat that is marked "grass finished", or free range. In fact, I have joined a buying club here in the city, that supports a local farm in Lancaster County. I do not eat meat all the time, but perhaps two to three times a week. I am more than able to replace some of that meat with healthier beans and soy and spend a little more for animal products coming from animals treated with dignity and respect. This factory farming business, I want nothing to do with. I don't want that kind of blood on my hands.
To be continued....

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