When you go to your farmer’s market you will see four or five or more fruit and vegetable stands as well as other specialties with meat, bread, wine, beer, candy, and preserved items (yeah, CAN-DO REAL FOOD!). Speak to the person at the booth. Ask about how they produce their food. They will be happy to speak with you! They are proud of what they do and love it when people show interest.
Some farmers offer a CSA. That stands for Consumer Supported Agriculture. This is an easy way to get more bang for your buck (more food for your dollar), but there is a catch, maybe two. First, you pay ahead, either by the month or the season or the partial season. This permits the farmer to have working capital during the growing season. Second, you will get some produce you may have never eaten before. That can be a hard hurdle to overcome, but ask the farmer for a recipe or use your internet skills to search for one. Make exploring new foods a regular family adventure. (When Graham and I first got together we did a cuisine of the week for a few months and learned new ethnic recipes. Now our exploration usually is a new veggie our farmers suggest.)
Look, some people (you?) have a close reliance on a hair dresser, a nail person, a massage therapist. We want what makes us feel/look/move healthy to be a regular, reliable part of our routine. Where is your decision about the source of your food in that list of important people? Where is the consideration of how you CAN influence your health with what you eat?
It’s easier than you think. There are many ways to find local information, but an easy place to start is Local Harvest. Stick in your zip code and hit the search button. You will then see a list of farms and more that are near you. Have fun exploring…and share your stories!
THAT amazing explosion in your mouth is the humongous difference in eating something picked green and something vine ripened. ALL fruits and veggies are that way.
Not only that, but if you were brought up with canned vegetables, try all those that you decided you would avoid as an adult one more time, fixed with locally-grown fresh produce. If you’re like me, you will be surprised. Those cans of spinach that Popeye crammed down his throat to get strong never convinced me…until I ate fresh spinach in a salad and then braved up and cooked some. Spinach is not longer on my “hate it” list. [Editor’s note: fresh, raw spinach or kale are fantastic, healthy vegetable additions to homemade fresh fruit smoothies!]
Secondly, and this is a bit concerning to me, we know our infrastructure (bridges and highways) have not been getting the maintenance they should have been getting over the past few decades. If there is a problem, as there was with the blizzard here in Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge blocking I-84 and the railroad, the transportation of goods (including food) may be slowed. If I can get most of my food from local sources, I can manage quite well. Now the Williamette Valley is an amazing garden and so much grows here that we could get by with only a few things missing from our diet, but not all areas are this fertile. Nevertheless, there is food near you. Find out what it is and learn how to prepare it for your meals.
Third, while the economic indicators show that the recession is over, it just doesn’t feel that healthy yet. One way to have a tremendous impact on your local economy is to spend more of your money IN it. In other words, use local shops and farms and services instead of the large corporate entities as much as possible. I, for one, discovered that printing my labels for my canned products cost more at Staples than at a small locally-owned print shop. A lot less at Copy Cabana! So, when I go in weekly during my processing season and pay for printing, I know that money will mostly stay right here in my town. The food I buy from local farmers helps the local economy the same way.
So how do you build a relationship with a farmer? One easy way is to identify where and when your local farmers’ markets are. Many market managers make an effort to plan to plan the hours so consumers can stop during lunch hour or after work on their way home. Here in McMinnville, our planned market hours are expanding to noon to 6 pm on Thursdays from mid-May to mid-October. There are markets every day of the week within 30 minutes of here! Maybe in your area too.
Why am I belaboring this point? Because it is time, past time, for you to know your farmer.
I’ve been using that phrase for years and it seems more and more I am posting it almost weekly as new disgusting things about our food becomes known. But what does it really mean?
It means that it is once again time for you to understand that what you put in your body does make a difference. It means your food is even more important than who won March Madness. It means that it is time to understand the difference in your food can make a difference in your life. I’m not talking any special diet here. I am talking knowing the source of what YOU chose to eat.
First of all, and maybe this is all you need to appreciate, it will TASTE BETTER! Why? Well, most of the fruits and veggies at the supermarket come long distances, flown in or by train or by truck. In order to be transported without spoilage, those fruits and veggies are picked green–not ripe. Almost everyone has eaten tomatoes in the winter and then a fresh tomato off someone’s backyard plant in the summer.
My mom was a nurse and so make sure we ate healthy meals. Each nigh we’d all sit down together as soon as the parents were home from work and we’d have a meat and two veggies. Usually a home based dessert afterwards. Sometimes it was delicious and sometimes I would have preferred to have a “no, thank you” helping (i.e. liver).
As I struck out on my own I usually made a meat (never liver) and veggie, trying to skip desserts. Anyone who knows me personally knows I lost that attempt.
And once the kids were on the scene the effort improved and more veggies entered the picture (but never any liver). Most meals were made form scratch in those days but I had my shortcuts, like boboli or frozen bread dough to make pizzas and Betty Crocker brownie mix for the chocolate fix.
About seven years ago I started learning more about how the food we were eating was considerably different from the same food of my childhood. Concerns about pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified foods were one thing. But then I learned about how fish like tilapia was a farm fish which meant it was raised in man-made ponds that were often pretty polluted. And now, to complicate things more, Congress permitted country of origin information to no longer be on labels. So, really, where DOES that chicken come from?
Around the same time I began to get involved in the farm-to-table movement in West Virginia. To say I knew nothing is not an understatement. I grew up in the New York metropolitan area, and while New Jersey’s nickname may be the Garden State, I lived in the paved part. But I enjoyed visiting farms and asking questions and I learned.
I learned a lot and I learned only a smidgen of what they know. They, the magic makers who take a tiny little speck of stuff, a seed, and manage to make that turn into tomatoes or squash or spinach. Amazing magic! They know how to do it and it definitely takes a lot of skill.
Right now here in the Williamette Valley some farmers are finding some fields are drying out enough from the winter rains to get started, but others will have to wait for more sun…or at least more non-rain days. And then, later, they will deal with the vagaries of the weather, with heat and sunshine and lack of rain. And then, here in Oregon, the rains will start again, maybe in October, maybe in November, maybe with climate change whenever it does.
Those vagaries can make or break a financial year for our local farmers…and your local farmers, too. I don’t care where you are when you read this, you may have some small farms nearby. About a hundred years ago there were farms all over. The Garden State, for example, had earned its nickname because it was the vegetable garden for New York City.
So, accept this piece: there are farmers near you, raising food you can eat.
Before I started working with the farmers I met in West Virginia and here in Oregon, they used to be invisible. Either I never went down back roads or the roads I drove were not rural enough. But they were there, all along. Maybe just tucked back off a long driveway, or around the hill on the other sides. They are there!
[Graham and Beth Rankin live in the Williamette Valley of Oregon. Beth is a strong advocate for farm-to-table eating. She is the chief executive of CAN-DO FOODS. The story of Can-Do Foods is an exciting one in itself. Before moving to Oregon, the Rankins lived in Huntington, WV where Graham was a professor at Marshall University and Beth was instrumental in founding and developing The Wild Ramp, a cooperative with local farmers.]
Time and again we see hints that many people have lost…or perhaps never developed….critical thinking skills. We can blame schools or families, but once a person reaches adulthood, the choice is theirs.
If you don’t know how to cook, watch some cooking videos or read a cookbook. If you don’t know how to put together that IKEA desk, go to YouTube. If you don’t know how to research something, there are plenty of instructions available.
Yes, it is easier to learn something when you are young. But if you want to improve the way you present yourself to the world, you can learn new tricks. Unless you prefer to be stuck in place.
Example: one of my friends on Facebook has a family member who often joins in the conversation. I have been warned time and again not to bother interacting with him; that he is a troll. However, I come from a long line of do-gooders and I am pretty stubborn. I think almost anyone is redeemable….if they show willingness to learn.
The thread got into Trump’s promise to bring back coal. No one contributing to the conversation had lived in West Virginia but since I had, and because I had had a meaningful conversation about coal with a mining engineer at one of my son’s cross country meets, I shared that exchange.
The information I shared is easily verified by countless articles posted to the Internet. However, the troll chose to tell me what I said was hearsay and he would just wait and see what Trump does to help the coal miners.
The legal definition of hearsay fits, but the common definition does not.
Since we were not in court, why the hesitation to accept what I offered? It took me less than three minutes to find and read an article from a reliable source about the causes of the decline in the coal industry in West Virginia.
He either had no interest in agreeing with anything anyone says or he has no desire to do research.
Either he enjoys his role of being a dissenter in the context of the Facebook discussion or he is unable to learn anything new.
He is only one of many many people who exhibit similar behavior. Think of your own habits. Do you agree or disagree with something based on the information presented or do you bother to take a few minutes to research independently?
I consider my time on Facebook to be “free time.” In other words, I CAN step away from the conversation to actually verify facts. This is NOT work! This is not something that is particularly time sensitive.
But what you say and do is your face to the world. Why be a troll?
From Wikipedia: In internet slang, a troll (/’trool/,/’troll/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement. If a person chooses this behavior willingly, he or she certainly is not worth my effort to “teach.”
[Beth Rankin is an amazing person, a personal friend, a dedicated wife and mother, and a gifted entrepreneur, writer and researcher. Beth lives with her husband in McMinnville, Oregon. She is the developer and founder of Can-Do Foods and was a major force in the very early development of The Wild Ramp in Huntington, WV. Readers are encouraged to check out Beth’s blog at https://goingplaceslivinglife.wordpress.com. Many thanks to Beth for the privilege of sharing her writing with our readers, too.]
It’s pretty certain that Donald Trump will be our next president, as embarrassing and horrifying as that is. Although I hold a glimmer of hope there will be a miracle, such as electors coming to their senses based on his horrifying decisions since the election, that seems about as likely as a big lottery win. I’m left with the question of what I will do to ensure this tragic choice does not ruin our country for the foreseeable future.
For the first time in my life, it seems I’ve become an activist. I breezed through the Vietnam War protests cocooned in a small public university tucked into a rural corner of Virginia, and did my civic duty by dating and corresponding with various young men fighting that war.
Now, I feel the necessity of making my voice heard in protest in whatever way possible. Most of us will not be able to run for a public office but all of us can influence a small group of people right where we are.
While your choices may well be different from mine, I’d urge any reader of this piece to identify steps you can take to prevent the tragedy we fear.
A lot of my actions have taken very little effort on my part. I’ve signed online petitions for issues which I support. I called the offices of Senators in my state to express my opposition to Steve Bannon’s presence close to Donald Trump based on his past connections to Breitbart News.
I’ve chosen two national organizations to support financially based on my concerns. The ACLU and Southern Poverty Law center seem to me to be at the forefront of opposing upcoming challenges to those personal freedoms we’ve come to take for granted. Other friends have chosen Planned Parenthood or other organizations which support freedom of choice for women. It’s not really as important which organization you choose as that you choose at least one to support.
I’m making plans with a group of friends to attend the Women’s March on Washington on January 21. I’m never demonstrated before, and I probably should do so while I can physically manage it. If you’d like to participate in some way, I suggest you Google it and then follow the resulting links to see what events close to you are planned.
There are state and local events which will be easier and less expensive if you can’t invest the time and/or money to go to Washington D.C. It’s important to know you can participate even if you aren’t female, also. All you need to be is a supporter of sanity in this currently misguided country.
I’ve discovered a local service with serious shortcomings and contacted my representative on the local level to effect changes there. After speaking to the director, with disappointing results, I’ve gone “higher” and I’ll be following up on that contact. He was most responsive and seemed to welcome my ideas.
I’ve contacted our local Democratic Party chairman and asked for information on how we can make a difference in our corner of the country. I’m disappointed in the lack of response after three days, but I won’t give up!
I sincerely hope every reader of this article will take similar actions. This is not a time to stand idly by and then complain about the outcome.