If you want to make small changes, change the way you do things. If you want to make big changes, change the way you see things." This was a quote I read this morning and it struck a major chord with me. The past few years I've been changing the way I've been doing things on the farm and I've been seeing a lot small changes for the better. I think part of the process of seeing things differently is doing things differently first. One has to be open to seeing things differently though. That is the crux for a lot of people, being receptive to seeing the world differently.
I recently finished reading a book by Barbara Kingsolver called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It is a tale of a family's journey into being locavores for a year. They, mostly, consumed food that they grew for themselves or what they could source from about 100 miles away from their small farm in rural Virginia. Some of the things I found most interesting about this book were the statistics. Did you know that for every 1 calorie the average US citizen consumes it takes 87 fossil fuel calories to get it to your mouth? All the energy put into tractors, fertilizers, transportation, processing, packing and distribution before you even drive to the store to buy it, bring it home then cook it for a meal. The more ingredients a product has listed, the 84 more energy it takes to produce that item. All those ingredients have to be milled or manufactured then packaged separately, then it's sent to the manufacturer to be made into the final product. Then that is sent out for distribution to warehouses and on to retailers that's all part of the massive and complex supply system. How many fossil fuel calories did it take to get that hot house tomato to you in January? I know, I've done this. When I lived on the mainland I went to the store in January and a pretty box of shiny red tomatoes catches my eye and I think, man those look delicious. I know in my logical brain that when I get them home and cut them open they will be pale and mealy on the inside but my emotional brain says, it'll be different THIS time. I promise. I'll buy them, get them home only to be disappointed, again. I'll eat them begrudgingly, longing for sweet and juicy summer tomatoes that are still months away from being in season.
Living, working and managing my very own farm has taught me a lot about growing food from first hand experience. I'm still learning and I have a craving to learn all I can as I feel we as a species are at a precipice. Factory farming in all shapes and sizes are killing us and our planet. Yes, we face a lot of issues but in my mind farming is the most important. Why? Because we all need to eat and the production of food is directly related to how we will heal ourselves, our planet and has the best chance of stopping climate change. Organic and sustainable farming can provide the world with nutritious and abundant food for all of us to consume while not only reducing a farm's carbon footprint but sequestering carbon to offset the carbon it does produce. I'll talk more about this in later posts.
I've been making small changes to the way I farm and prepare food for myself and my customers, especially since the lock down. I make a spinach, mushroom and feta cheese quiche and it's one of my most popular creations at the markets and from my restaurant too. Every time I open a bag of Californian grown spinach, I cringe. First of all the plastic that goes in the trash and then knowing that this spinach traveled at least 2500 miles to get to my kitchen. Then I'll use electricity to saute it before I bake it in an electric oven. It will eventually be purchased where it will then be driven in a fossil fuel burning vehicle to someone's home before it is finally reheated by gas or electricity before it's consumed. That spinach has traveled farther than most of us have this year or last year. I've been asking local farmers if they grow spinach and the answer is always no. It's too hard, they say. I planted some of my own but even if it goes crazy it will not supply my commercial needs. Then I had a thought, why spinach? What is grown locally that's green and leafy? Kale! We all feared Kale was the answer to all of life's problems all along, didn't we? I know it seems obvious but I have never managed a kitchen or even worked in a restaurant above a dishwasher status at age 16. Everything I know about cooking and running my business I've taught myself. We all get stuck in a rut doing the same thing over and over because it's comfortable and familiar. But by questioning my ingredients and being conscious about my choices I've begun to see the world differently. I've begun to see how my choices affect my health, the health of my customers and the health of our planet. This week I'll be buying locally grown kale from the farmers market instead of California grown spinach at Costco to use in my quiche. The week after that I'll find a new locally grown item to replace another import. I am making a difference, even if it's small one. When the world seems daunting and out of control, find something you can control. Find a farmers market that's still open. Invest in a CSA (community supported agriculture). Reach out to a local farm co-op and see if they have a way for you to buy local produce, maybe it will even be delivered. Ask your local grocery store to carry local produce. Then actually buy it when it's fresh and in season for your area. You'll feel better, I promise, which is a much better promise than a January tomato ever made. Thank you for taking the time to read. Much love and aloha.