Someday soon, you’ll be able to merely think about bananas, and a drone will deliver a bunch. Convenience is supreme. Or is it?
My challenge – and that of many of my fellow farmers – is to get consumers to slow down just enough to make conscious decisions about how they want to live – and more specifically, how they want to eat.
Do you want fresh produce, raised right here in New Hampshire? How about beef from cattle that were treated humanely and raised on wholesome food? Do you care enough to go after it?
Most farms are off the beaten track. Ours, Miles Smith Farm, is halfway between Concord and Laconia, down a dirt road that doesn’t lead anywhere else.
But a farm visit is often more than a shopping trip. For instance, at our farm, you can buy meat, but you also can feed carrots to the cows or even pet the pigs. We also have a donkey, a pair of goats, and a lamb whose sole purpose is to round out the visitor’s experience.
Step outside our farm store and a 1,500-pound steer named Topper might mosey over for a treat or the donkey, Eleanor, might nudge you for an ear rub. You can even talk with my husband Bruce and me – although our critters usually have more to say than either of us.
Buying locally-raised meats and vegetables is about the journey, but it’s also about flavor. Just-picked produce is far better than stuff that ripened in a truck en route from California. Meat from cattle who don’t receive systematic antibiotics or added hormones tastes like the beef that was raised by our grandparents – tender, tasty, and natural.
Local farmers work harder than corporations to provide delicious food. Consequently, we live lives of great inconvenience. At 4 a.m. dairy farmers get up to milk cows, and crop farmers rise early to pick that day’s offerings. The needs of livestock come before a farmer’s own hunger and thirst. And when a cow is going to give birth, she does not make an appointment.
So, why do we work second jobs to earn enough to buy hay, or fix a tractor or pay a vet bill? It’s because we embrace a way of life that is inarguably useful. Our lives are governed by the seasons, the weather, and the needs of our crops or animals and not by artificial rules and protocols set up and supervised by people in suits. People have been coaxing a living from the soil for thousands of years, and we carry on that tradition with pride.
If you tend a garden or raise chickens, you know what I’m talking about. Another way to connect is by buying direct from local farmers.
It will take time and cost some convenience, but it will make a difference in several ways:
1) Dollars spent with farmers stay in your community.
2) Your purchases keep farms viable and safe from development. Would you rather live among farms or among self-storage units and fast-food joints?
3) You’ll eat food that tastes the way it should.
4) It is produced by people who will look you in the eye and answer your questions.
For some people, convenience is everything. For others, the priority is living thoughtfully and purposefully; not settling for what’s easy to dump into your grocery cart. Their process involves seeking and discovery.
Sound good? If your choices include eating wholesome food produced by your neighbors with bad backs and good intentions, come find us.
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Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (www.milessmithfarm.com), where she raises and sells pastured pork, lamb, eggs and grass-fed beef. She can be reached at email@example.com.