Moo. I want to meet my cow.
I’m a person with a mission people. I recently got my very own cow share, and I want to meet my cow. For those of you who don’t know what a cow share is, it is an arrangement in which I legally purchase a share in an animal, thereby entitling me to a portion of its raw milk. My specific arrangement is with Avery’s Branch Farms, a family-run operation out of Amelia, Virginia. The family gets a secure long-term investment covering the costs of keeping their cows, and every week I get a sweet, creamy gallon of raw milk from a grass-fed happy (named Sunshine), plus raw butter, happy chicken eggs, raw cheese, etc., upon request.
And I want to meet my cow.
Think for a moment about what you eat in a week. Can you pronounce most of the ingredients? Does it come in a disposable package? How many hands working for how many companies and corporations have touched it? How many miles were driven and how much gas was consumed moving the product between the original ingredients, the suppliers, the distributors, and who knows how many other middlemen, before it reached its spot in your supermarket-of-choice? How much are the farmers paid, at the root of any such equation? How do they treat the land, or their animals? These questions, and the fact that I cannot answer most of them, disturb the hell out of me.
So many of our consumables (is that a word?) end up in our cupboards or refrigerator in packages bearing no resemblance to their original source. Beef comes from cows people, it doesn’t just grow into steaks like cabbage patch kids. And I like to eat meat sometimes, but I also like to know my food comes from an ethical source.
So I’ve made a decision. As much as possible, I want to consume responsibly. I want to know exactly where my “stuff” is coming from, that my money is going to support sustainable farmers, not brand-name “organic” and “free range” mega-farm monstrosities that make a mockery of those very ideals. I want to shake the hand of the person that cultivated my food, and know that we are supporting each other, that the money I spend with them to nourish my body is in turn going to be recirculated within our local community – that’s sustainable.
Beyond that, I want to be able to pronounce all the ingredients in my food and not eat anything with corn syrup in it unless I’m adding it myself (mmm… caramel corn…), to know how my eggs and veggies and rice and meat get to my table, exactly where they come from.
So here’s what I’m doing. I’m going to the local farmers’ markets. I’m trying to eat whole foods, in season, sustainably farmed right here in Virginia without use of chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or the like. For those staples that I cannot garner from local farms directly (such as rice or olive oil), I’m seeking out companies directly, informing myself and choosing whom I want to support. I will continue to enlarge my garden year by year and learn more about growing my own food and herbs. I learn to make other foods myself – cheese, yogurt, wine, kombucha, etc. I will eat food that is tastier, healthier, fresher, and I will bask in the goodness and wholesomeness. Or I’ll just say “yum.”
So I’m going to meet my cow. I’ll keep you posted…