** I posted this on Fight Back Fridays **
Well, it's been almost a year since we started getting our milk from Farmer Julie and Farmer Rick at Freedom Hill Farms. And I continue to be beyond impressed and delighted by them, and their milk. We started out getting it from an Amish farmer, and it was fantastic quality milk, and delivered 2 miles away. But, it was also $8 a gallon, and I really wished for my children to see the source of their food as much as possible. Enter Freedom Hill Farm. I had prayed for a few months for God to provide a cheaper source of raw milk that I could pick up, and he did! $4 a gallon and the kids get to feed, pet and comb the cows while they are being milked. It's truly amazing! The couple who owns and operates the farm are Christians. They have prayer requests and Bible verses hanging on their barn walls. They always start out the milking session with prayer, and ask any of the guests to join them if they like. They give tours of their farm to anyone or any group interested. Julie is incredible. She is so good with the kids, and they, of course, love her back. Do you ever feel like you found a 'jewel'. These guys are definitely jewels.
I read a lot in the 'real food' circles, about our ability to vote with our wallet. And it makes sense, esp in today's economy and society. More then ever, we need to topple these giant businesses, for whom bottom line is the only real factor, and get back to the small ma and pop operations of yesteryear. It sounds too whimsical to be possible. But I really am starting to believe that it can happen.
Today I witnessed both extremes and it was eye opening for me.
First off, we drove an hour to the farm for our milk and eggs. There were people coming in and out, getting milk and talking and even feeding and walking the baby cows. It was hustle and bustle, but relaxed and fun. As Rick was pouring the milk into my plastic buckets, he said 'Jules (that's what he calls his wife-did I mention how cute they are?), look how creamy this milk is, this is great milk!'. The man has been a dairy farmer for I think about 20 years, and he still knows and is impressed by the quality of the milk. So I asked him what the difference was, and his response was 'the grass, the green amazing pasture grass', or something along those lines. I was so proud, impressed and grateful to know that I was going to take that stuff home and nourish my family with it. It was a precious substances that the farmer himself was proud of. Their barn has enough stalls to milk 22 cows. They decided when they went certified raw, that they wanted to keep it small. So when babies are born, they are sold to other dairy farms, or rotated into their herd. Each animal has a name. They are happy animals, if you can call a cow happy. They come up to you and nuzzle you. The kids love it when they nibble on their fingers.
After reading about the confined feeding operations (hysterical videos on a subject that is not so funny), I greatly appreciate those things. A small business, thriving in this 'bad economy', while bringing health to families and it's surrounding environment, and leaving little, if any, carbon footprint. It's a win-win situation!
On our way home, we stopped at Pathmark-a large supermarket chain store. It's huge, and honestly, up until about a year and a half ago, I did most of my grocery shopping there.
But, wow, what a difference from the farm we had just visited! First off, I've read in numerous places, that the food on our plates travel approximately 1500 miles to get there! That store represents a lot of miles traveled!
I once bought a package of orange extract that was produced right here in NJ, but was shipped from Ohio. But, it gets worse. The oranges had to be shipped, probably from Florida, to the plant in NJ to be combined with the alcohol to make the extract. And then shipped off to the distribution center in Ohio. Yikes! That's well over 1500 miles-all for a little bottle of extract.
And if you look at the labels on our produce, it's either from California, as they have the longest growing periods, or from a different country altogether. So it's hurting the little farmers in 3rd world countries who aren't being given fair prices for the food they grow, it's using up 10 times as much energy to ship, as it will give to the person consuming the food stuff, and it's being grow on soil that is depleted of any nutrients, and therefore pumped with synthetic nutrients to make it grow. Nobody wins!
Back to Pathmark... the people working at the store had no desire to be there, no enthusiasm and frankly, not a lot of knowledge when it came to the goods that were being sold there. Which is totally understandable of course. They have no idea where any of it came from, no connection to the people or land that made it possible and therefore, no pride in it whatsoever.
Contast that to Farmer Rick who was just admiring his great milk not 2 hours earlier, and it's eye opening!
There is no real accountability for the big producers of food. And no matter how many rules the government puts in place, they will never be able to hold them truly accountable. That is the nature of the game.
But, find yourself some farmers who know what they are doing. Who are connected to the land and truly care about their work, and all of that changes. The joy returns. The pride of a job well done is there. And the difference it can and would make on the economy and even social structure of America, is, I believe, huge!
If we were to stop consuming meat and dairy productes from confined feeding lots, and Genetically modified produce and grains from chemical-laden soils, I truly believe many of the modern health issues would correct themselves.
Eating a diet rich in saturated fats from grass fed animals (including eggs, meat, cheese, milk, fats such as lard, tallow and suet, etc.), and produce and grains from sustainably kept farms would make Americans healthy from the inside out, and take away the need for a national healthcare system.
It would also take money away from the big businesses, taking their 'votes' out of the government and allowing them to finally do some unbiased research and law making. They could get busy figuring out how to set up laws to safely allow all states to sell raw milk to interested consumers, and stop spending billions subsidizing corn that just sits or is used to make nasty things like high fructose corn syrup.
It would also hold each farmer accountable for the quality of his food. Food bourne illnesses like e-coli in meat, spinach and peanut butter would be so much easier to trace. And each farmer would work hard at making sure he does not lose his business due to carelessness. None of the large companies affected by the recent e-coli outbrakes have broke a sweat over their laziness!
And it would connect people to their source of food again. My precious niece would not believe her mother when she said that milk comes from cows. 'no mom, milk comes from the grocery store shelf!'. Isn't that how most children think? How would they know the source of their food if they never see it? Luckily, shortly after that conversation, we were able to take her with us to the farm and prove to her that milk really does come from a cow. :)
Of course, I don't believe that is the answer to all the world's problems. There are many, and sin is ultimately to blame.
But I'm happy knowing I'm 'casting my vote' for the little guys when I buy local. And I hope to shop less and less at stores like Pathmark and Wal-Mart.
Just for the record, I spent $120 at the farm and $20 at Pathmark. :)