More proof that I don’t fit in anywhere.

What do you mean this is not a winning image?

Despite the fact that I (ME, the one, the only I!) am the one in this marriage who used to take phone calls from debutants and bourgeoisie,  Seth Teter has requested that I relinquish control of the Six Buckets Farm Facebook page to him. Ugh. PR people! But I guess I’ll let him cling to this small sliver of control he can maintain over our public lives. Thus, I’ll respect his request. So when you’re talking to Six Buckets, be aware that chances are, you’re talking to Seth. He occasionally does talk. I think I heard him once or twice.

So we’re doing this whole Six Buckets Farm thing and we’re selling at the Farmers Market, and in the coming months, we’re offering pork and chicken and eggs and, one day, beef, and DEFINITLY NOT MILK OR CHEESE because that is ILLEGAL and the problem with marketing our products is that I don’t think the milk, meat or eggs sold in the grocery store are evil or poisonous.  This uncomfortable fact might put us out of ‘business’ very fast.

Yesterday at the great pig drop-off, during the ‘chewing the fat’ portion of every livestock sale where the animals are loaded and the chatting begins (my favorite!!!) everyone was standing around taking about the best place to find non-GMO and organic feed for their heritage breed hogs for less than $25 on the hundred. I asked, honestly, what GMO corn would do to my pigs, and the wonderful gentleman selling my sow (really, I do mean wonderful) said GMO corn could make my boar sterile and could prevent my sow from going into heat. It was hot and I wasn’t in the mood to ask follow-ups, so I nodded. Luckily, my kids were squealing so I could go excuse myself and resist the temptation to be a jerk. I’m sure he has done lots of research and has come down on that side. That’s fine. That’s what I did as well, and one day maybe we can both pit our tailored research studies against each other over beer and heritage breed bacon.

But to the casual observer, when you look at live video feed of pregnant sows stretched into the horizon, it appears GMO-fed pigs do not struggle with fertility issues.

I’m sure he would have a rebuttle for me. David? Are you out there?

The point of this story is that I’m running into this a lot. The vast majority of Joel Salatin wannabes like myself have a deep-seeded hatred for conventional farming. I’m not finding much room for people who tolerate these practices, but want to grow their own food anyway. Do they even exist? Or are they all just nodding along, awkwardly straddling the middle?

I wish I had never heard the other side of the argument. It would be so nice to remove this nagging information from my brain so I could fit in. More importantly, I wish I did not know one single conventional farmer. That way I could go on bashing their practices, honestly believing that food in the grocery store is harmful and wrong. And no one would ever accuse me of being brainwashed by my husband. Bonus: I could sell a lot more meat.

But I don’t believe it. I don’t hate CAFOs. I’m sorry. I tried for a brief period in college. It didn’t pan out.

So why don’t I just eat their food? Why do I do what I do?

I want something that I believe to be better.

What does that mean?

I’m still figuring that out. I will be honest and tell you my way isn’t always better. In my experience, conventional and, uh, ‘non-conventional’ food production simply swaps out one problem for another. All we can do is weigh those problems and come down on whatever side we guess is best. I admire EVERYONE who takes the time to weigh the options.

There are a few things that I know so far, and all are subject to change:

Not that building a multi-million-dollar indoor facility is an option, but I want pigs in the dirt. I know they can’t all be raised that way, but mine can. I’m happier, the pig appears to be happier (unless it dies of heat exhaustion, of course) and I think the meat tastes better. (By the way—every farmer should think their meat tastes better, or they should stop selling it.)

I'm pretty sure science would back me up when I say, "This pig is totally giddy."

Same with chickens. I want them growing and living and laying free-range. I understand this means they will get hit by cars, mauled by feral cats, eaten by hawks and occasionally rained on. BONUS: They will also get to dust bathe!

Dairy? I like what we’ve got going here. I’ve been to dairies and the cows seem to be just fine. But I prefer raw milk. I think the good outweighs the risk of the bad. Plus, taste. Taste, people! I’d rather die from eating good food than live a life full of sterile chalk water. I won’t die, but you get my point.

With all these animals, I can’t HELP but think that a diet of bugs and grass and pastured living makes the meat/milk/eggs more nutritious. I can find 6 studies each that ‘prove’ it does and it doesn’t, but, I mean, the food is a different COLOR. And color means something. We were born with eyes that discern color when we are picking out our food. Color has to mean something. Omega-3s or some BS, right??

pastured eggs

You're not going to convince me that dark color doesn't mean something good.

Also, we’re supplementing with GMO grains because they are totally safe. And unless a buyer requests otherwise, we’re letting the butcher preserve the meat with salty nitrates because they are also safe. Sorry, hippies.

I think the most important thing “my way” has to offer is the connection between food producer (i.e., “cow”) and food eater. There is a lot to be gleaned in that relationship. In a life and a death and a meal. And if you eat food from the grocery store, you don’t know the story of the animal. It is hardly an animal at all, but rather, an anonymously packaged slab of protein. To me, that’s cheating. That’s not, as one old hippy said, “eating with the fullest pleasure.” That’s eating to get by, which is, admitedly, crucial. However, we should make a little more room in our lives for the former.

Maybe just like once a week. I know everybody is busy.

And so I’m doing what I’m doing to grab the hand of the eater and the hand (hoof?) of the animal and force them to embrace for a minute. That is not a metaphor. I will make you hug pigs if you come over to my house, omnivoures! You should probably say thank-you. The animals deserve at least that.

I think we were hard-wired to crave this man-beast connection. (Man-beast Connection would be a great band name.) I think this is why more and more people are seeking out information about where their food comes from. I think this is why we grow up feeling a twinge of guilt for buying meat in sytrafoam on those little maxi pads. If you don’t feel that, then God Bless You. You are a lucky man.

However, this is a terrible sales pitch.

Want a better sales pitch?

That hormone-laced, GMO-stuffed antibiotic-dripping slab of conventionally raised poison will kill you and your family, or at least give you cancer. In the meantime, it’s ruining the environment. Now THAT drives sales.

But I don’t believe that. Plus they don’t even use hormones in pigs. Ugh.

Anyway, the fact of the matter is, there is no truth. You can find three research studies that tell you corn sugar is GREAT, and three more that tell you high fructose corn syrup will sneak into your house at night and rape your cats for funsies. Unless you have time to write a thesis on every food matter, at the end of the day you kind of have to go with your feeeeelings. Which is always the worst, most dangerous way to make a decision.

So for now I’m offering what I know to be true: Food from animals you have met. At least on the Internet. Hopefully in real life. Come out and see if you feel comfortable with how the animal is raised. Whisper “thank you” in its ear. And then? Well, buy the dead carcass from me. Or not. Whatever. Stay for dinner. But if you are going to buy, PLEASE get a deep freezer. Seriously, they are like $150 on Craigslist.

We are going to be so rich. I can feel it.

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  • Brad W

    A fine commentary that I totally and whole heartedly agree with.

  • Kateteter

    I would suggest reading The China Study for research about eating animal based products versus plant based. High protein foods were shown in these studies to be associated with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes (not just problems of hormone induced meat). Sorry, y vegetarianism is coming out!