Friday, November 19, 2010

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver

I've been reading and watching a lot about practicle responsible sustainable food production, which makes sense since I work for a swine feed manufacturerer. But it's not for work really, it's actually be sort of 'due' to work. And quite a bit of what I'm learning is disconcerting. It never crossed my mind to question WHY we need all this damn corn...why to feed the world obviously but we don't eat field corn. And guess what... by nature cows don't either!

So I've been reading. It started with an assignment in Environmental Science class. I chose Walden. It's funny how there are so many similarities between these two books.

Like who else but an elitist either supported or independently wealthy can even start to try to do this? And where are the NYC folks supposed to grow pumpkins? Farmer's Markets can't do it all either. The book is about Barbara Kingsolver and her family going on a 'factory farming' strike in essence. No CAFO meat, nothing trucked in from over X miles away. And only farmers market purchases from farmers marketers that practice organic or responsible sustainable farming practices. And growing as much as they can!! (perhaps they just had better green thumbs than I do, I had trouble with 4 tomato plants) They even learned to make their own soft cheeses and yogurt.

This does all seem like a step in the right direction, not, perhaps, the whole journey though. I CAN find farmers markets, for some stuff. I can try to grow some of my own stuff...again. I can look for simpler ingredients. From page 348 "Products with fewer ingredients have probably burned less gas. For example, the oatmeal box on our pantry shelf lists one ingredient: rolled oats...By contrast the ...75% organic cereal box lists seventeen ingredients all of which had to be transported to the processing plant." Now THAT I never thought of even though we buy ingredients at the mill from all over the world. Sometimes by the shipping container full. And I do think I'll think twice with what I choose to much as I can.

There is an element of quaint fantasy here. But the reasoning is mostly valid (if a tad alarmist) and I'm all for simplification. Even if it means more work...oxymoron. Not really, it's just a rearrangement. I see a few delimma's flowing into the 'better food' stream. Health issues, land issues, food issues, economic issues.

With all that said, it may be surprising that I actually did very much enjoy reading this book!! And yes it DID make me want to try those 4 tomato plants again. And, since it's already mid November, I'll wait until February to start thinking about what I could put next to them. Peppers maybe? A salsa garden? hmmm?

If I kept them all alive and un-bunny munched, that would be a miracle :)

Rating: 4/5


  1. I've wanted to read this book for quite awhile. As Iowans we really need to be aware of what is happening in the world of agriculture. I often find myself between a rock and a hard place because I grew up on a farm and am from a farming family but I'm also a huge proponent of organically grown foods and sustainable agriculture. The truth is that farmers are just trying to earn a living and they have been told by scientists and the government that they way they farm is they way they should farm so they can produce more-- which is also good for them because they earn more money. This is a very BP scenario: people go after the farmers but they are just trying to earn a living for their families and do it the way they know how just like people went after the BP stores in their towns even though the people who owned those stores had nothing to do with the oil spill. In the end it all comes down to us. The people. Support organic farming any way you can and write your congressmen to tell them you think more government subsidies should be available for farmers who DO want to farm in a sustainable manner (because the truth is it's very difficult to make money farming organically). If we demand it we could create a better future for generations to come.

    Sorry for the long comment, this is something I'm very passionate about obviously.

  2. Don't apologize! I liked the long comment and I totally agree! I live smack in the middle of farm country plus I work for a swine feed manufacturing plant... we make the feed for CAFO swine. I know too that we do try to give the best we can for the well being of the swine aside from just gain. And that there are people looking at alternatives to antibiotic use for preventative health and gain.

    Still, if I were going to work to effect more change it's hard to know where to start. Especially in November.