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Achieving Food Independence

Table of Contents

1: Industrial Food and the Homestead Alternatives2: Soil Fertility3: Organic Matter4: Minimizing Tillage5: Garden Year--Spring6: Garden Year--Summer7: Garden Year--Fall8: Garden Year--Winter9: Orchard and Woodlot10: Forest Garden11: The Lawn12: Livestock13: Poultry14: Ruminants15: Closing Thoughts on Livestock16: Local Foods17: Bringing It All Together

16. Local Food Sources

It may be, of course, that for whatever constraints of location, property size, or time available, the homesteader is unable to produce her own meat, or eggs, or milk. For that matter, there may be other desirable foods—orchard fruits, for example—we do not produce ourselves. I think it is first of all essential to—relax! I’ve spent far too many years thinking I had to do it all, and am grateful that I am now looking to a local community of effort and interdependence for foods we don’t produce on our own place. This option is a key part of independence from the industrial food system.

Buying at the farm

Ellen and I do not at present raise goats or lambs, as we did in the past. We have established a close relationship with friends who do; and each spring we commit to them to buy a determined number of lambs and kids, for ourselves and a small buying group we’ve organized. In the fall, I pick up the animals and deliver them to the abattoir. Each family in the buying group specifies their own cutting and wrapping preferences. I’ve done my own slaughtering of kids and lambs in the past—and could again if necessary—but I like the fact that the abattoir is able to age the meat for me, and that they do a better job of packaging (shrink wrapping) than I can.

Farmers markets

Farmers markets are often a good source for superior locally grown foods. Don’t be shy: When you visit the market, talk with the growers. Find out where they farm, what methods they use, their fundamental approach to soil care and sustainability and food quality issues. Use your food dollars to support those with whom you feel the greatest agreement and connection.

Weston A. Price Foundation

If you are not a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation, I strongly urge you to check them out and become a member. Not only is the Foundation a fount of information on food quality, nutrition, and health issues, but local chapters can help put you in touch with growers in your area. Ellen and I are local chapter leaders, and one of our main functions is the maintainence of a local food resources list, which helps families concerned about food quality get in touch with small producers committed to growing superior food. In many cases, people come to have a close and treasured relationship with the people providing their food, and think of them as “our farm.” Trips to the farm to pick up foods such as broilers for the freezer can be a great outing for the whole family, and establish an ever greater connection to the sources of their food—an increasingly rare experience in our culture. Of course, it is always possible to put together buying co-ops of any size or complexity, in order to share the transport and distribution of foods, and perhaps to keep costs down.

Raw milk and milk foods

One food of special note is locally produced high quality raw milk and other dairy products. Our culture has become almost pathologically paranoid about the threats to health of unpasteurized milk. (In fact, as a vector for foodborne illness, dairy products of all types do not even come close to the number one threat in the field—green salads!) Blinded by the fear we’ve assumed regarding raw milk, we fail to see the threats posed by pasteurization, homogenization, keeping cows confined and under enormous stress, boosting milk production by hormones, and other industrial voodoo. I urge you to inform yourself of the true history of the use of milk as a wholesome food—and the disaster which is industrial milk. And then to seek out a local source of high quality raw milk from grass-fed cows.

Aye, there’s the rub. In many states (including prominently my own state of Virginia), the sale of a wholesome food that has been the foundation of many cultures for thousands of years—has been made a criminal act. If you decide that raw milk could make a wonderful contribution to your family’s health and nutrition, be prepared for a shock—it may well be that Big Brother thinks otherwise. Concerns about nutrition and health may well morph into concerns about your fundamental rights as a free citizen.

One way people are obtaining quality milk in many states is through the use of cowshare programs. The householder buys a share in a cow on a local farm. Since you can drink all the raw milk you like from your own cow, the share owner is simply paying a fee to the farmer for the care and milking of her cow, and the receipt of an agreed quantity of milk each week does not represent a retail sale.

Ellen and I helped start a cowshare program on a farm near us. At present the farm has three fine Jersey cows which supply about 30 or 35 shareholders. We have helped educate newcomers to the program in the proper handling of raw milk, and its use for making a number of traditional dairy foods—cultured milk and cream, simple cheeses, butter, etc. Shareholders become passionately committed to the farm supplying their milk, and to access to milk and milk foods of a variety and quality unavailable in the supermarket.