“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (KJV)
Everything has a season. One of the biggest challenges in undertaking a natural or organic grass-fed livestock farm approach is educating the customer about the seasonality of your product. In the Restigouche region our growing window is relatively short, although some may argue it is expanding with the onset of milder winters and earlier first frosts/later late frosts. Something to be researched, I suppose. However, with that said, chicken cannot be raised on grass when there is snow on the ground or dead thatch. The summer months provide the heaviest levels of protein when the shoots have maximal sunshine exposure and lots of rain. Chickens will eat hay chaff but the protein content makes up a far smaller percentage of their diet than fresh green dandelion shoots, for example. Any book on raising chickens will speak to this issue.
Grass fed food systems are seasonal by nature, so the extent of change to the current food system depends on your approach to buying organic/natural/grass fed food. There are many ways to preserve garden fresh foods. You can can, bottle, pickle, blanch and freeze vegetables. Luckily, our meat products come frozen, allowing you to stock your deep freeze with vacuum sealed freezer chickens and packaged beef. Two key points can be made about this type of approach to local food: (1) Buying local food to preserve for off-season eating, limits the amount of food bought from the big grocery chains and (2) we develop a deeper connection to food from our region. The youth of today’s fast food society have become prone to convenience and the associated health risks that go with eating take-out, fast food, and fried food. They are becoming further and further disconnected from the natural food cycle. They are being duped about the definition of “real” food. How many times do we find ourselves within “western society” looking for the quickest way to satiate our predisposition to fatty and salty foods? Instead of teaching our children to search out local organic food growers, we are creating an inheritance of health problems from food choices. Trust me, I’ve done it. Guilty as charged as they say. But, the light at the end of that dark tunnel came from embracing the organic local food movement, which is in season and has the potential to propel the pendulum of food power back into the hands of local producers and consumers. Now, when I drive by MacDonald’s, I ask myself, “Why did I ever?”
In light of the increased exposure of the corporate food industry through documentaries, people are beginning to change their approach to food. I have talked to many customers about the graphic nature of these documentaries, which has caused many to prematurely press the stop button. I tell you, watch every minute of these documentaries. Educate yourself. Sear every graphic image into your mind so that you never find yourself inadvertently supporting food produced in such a way. By now, it may sound like I am proselytizing my beliefs about food but the purpose of this blog is to highlight the benefits of eating and becoming connected to local food. Everything has it’s season but that does not mean we are powerless to extend, prolong, shorten, or terminate the season. On the contrary, our food choices, to some degree, have the power to give life to small farmers and their efforts to produce healthy organic local food all the while standing opposed to ethical mistreatment of animals in feedlots, the planting of GMO crops, and the use of pesticides and chemicals on our crops. Is it time to embrace organic food and a return to the natural ways of producing food? Can we safely and sustainably grow and raise food in a manner that many would label backward? I think the season is upon us to find out.
This blog post is written in memory of Melody Harvey, a dear friend who left to join the saints in heaven. God bless.