How Do You Feed Your Family?

Mar 23 2013

I recently sat with Sarah and Bubba King at one of our local wine-country restaurants and, while Greg wrangled kids, homework and bedtimes all on his own, I drank local beer, ate coppa pizza from the wood-fired oven, and asked my friends some Serious Questions.

Now, those of you who’ve been reading here a while will remember Sarah and Bubba from my Run, vegetarians, RUN post titled This Little Piggy Means More Bacon for Me. It’s a good post if you like bacon. AND it included original two-word poetry by me, as well as a confession or two about our crunchy Oregon lifestyle. You can go read it first if you want some background. We’ll wait.

Sarah and Bubba are farmers. I like to think of them as my farmers. They raise pork and poultry. They source local flour and butter. And they run a Community Supported Agriculture project (CSA) where folks like me pay a subscription fee to buy a percentage of their produce. That means that when the farm does well, we get an abundance of delicious, fresh fruits and veggies. And when the farm doesn’t, we get less. It’s a risk, but it’s also the future of sustainable, community farming, and we love both the goods we receive and supporting the local food movement.

But we also feed our kids crap mac and cheese. The kind in the box with the dyes and the preservatives and the simple carbohydrates and the nutritional void. And other morally inferior foods. Like candy. And neon ice cream. And sugar cereal.

So… you know. This is life. Both/And, right? Both feeding our kids locally grown, carefully produced food and snacking on off-brand Fruit Loops straight from the jumbo bag.

That was the first of the Serious Questions I asked Sarah and Bubba. Why will you even talk to me? You know I’m feeding my kids from your farm and the discount grocery store. Don’t I offend you? Don’t you want to reach across the table and yell, STOP IT WITH THE TWIZZLERS, LADY. YOU’RE RUINING YOUR KIDS. And they said, “Nope. You’re good.” And then they said more than that, which we’ll get to, but that was the gist.

The second of the Serious Questions was about money. Oh my gosh, MONEY, you guys. Some people make some, but that person is not me or Bubba or Sarah. So we sat there talking about doing what we love and losing money and the fact that it’s all undeniably worth it. Me with the writing about laying down our guilt and giving ourselves grace and recognizing our hard work and being our true selves and loving our imperfections and laughing at the mess. And Sarah and Bubba with the farming.

So the second question I asked the Bubbas was What’s the point? Which is about money, of course, but is more about purposeWhy do you do this thing where you lose money and you work ’til you bleed? WHY? 

I invited them to answer me in writing, because I want to share their passion with you.

……….

pig_in_box

What’s the Point?
a guest post by Sarah King of The Collective

What’s the point?

Both sets of my grandparents have asked our friends and family members the same question.

“What exactly are Sarah and Bubba doing? Or rather, what it is that they are trying to do?”

They (like many) don’t know or understand the letter combination, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). They don’t understand why we are toiling away, making just enough money to pay for this “hobby” of ours, as they call it. For goodness sake, you can just go to the store and buy all that stuff that you’re trying to grow and it would cost you a lot less money. You wouldn’t have to spend your days getting up early to go feed the animals (even on Sundays) and all of your spare time in the summer peering into a canning pot and listening for the ting, ting, ting of the jars that seal successfully. And what do you mean you don’t buy tomatoes? How can you have a salad in the middle of winter without tomato sliced on it? Wait. You mean, you don’t eat salad during the winter?

My grandparents, whom I admire and respect greatly, don’t understand why we choose to do these things the way they used to be done. Major grocery chains and Amazon.com didn’t exist. They spent year after year doing all the things above because if you didn’t, you didn’t eat. And then things changed. The world got bigger (or is it smaller?) and pretty soon they didn’t have to work so hard to eat and sustain themselves and their families. Soon, they discovered that they could get rid of the dairy cow because it was cheaper to go to the store and buy milk. And that instead of working on the farm all day, they could work in an industry that actually paid them in money, rather than in blisters and sunburns and food. They got things like paid time off and retirement. So why after all of their hard work to get off the farm would we want to undo everything and go back to it? Don’t we understand that it’s hard work, and long hours, and you can’t take days off, or call in sick? And you certainly won’t get rich from it, you likely won’t even make enough to ever retire.

Our simple answer is this: we don’t want to get rich, we want to live richly and a fully. And we do.

When we started “farming” it was really that we just decided that we wanted to learn more about the food that we were putting on our plates. When Bubba and I first got married, I shopped en masse. I loaded up on canned goods at bulk grocery stores — bought cases of soda at Costco — and stocked a pantry with enough prepared foods to survive an apocalyptic snow storm. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.

But then, something changed. Bubba and I noticed that the food we were eating wasn’t making us feel very nourished, and we certainly weren’t enjoying it, or the process of making it. And we were starting to hear about this trend of people raising their own meat or growing veggies in raised beds outside of their kitchen. So we thought we’d give it a try. I mean, how hard could it be? Put some pigs on the pasture — watch them grow and then fill your freezer. It had to be less money than we were spending on pork from Costco.

So we did it. And we made mistakes. The pigs got out and made a mess of the pastures we put them in. And I didn’t like how much mud they created during the rainy season. But when we finally did the deed and when the first pork chop graced our lips, there was no turning back.

When we launched the CSA last year and so many of our community members asked us to help them eat like we do, we cried in humbleness. We were being asked to help nourish the bodies of the families around us. We were being trusted to make sure that kids went to school with real carrot sticks in their lunch boxes and that the tomatoes we gorged ourselves on during the summer weren’t picked by slaves in Florida. The apples we provided came from a gentleman named Ralph who meticulously trims his gorgeous 75 year old apple trees, but doesn’t eat to many because he has diabetes — though he is sure tickled that the kids like them so much.

I filled myself last year with berries that my husband picked and ate eggs from our chickens by the dozen, growing a baby boy in my belly that is now eating his own ration of eggs and applesauce and squash that I picked and preserved for him during the harvest last year.

We get up early to feed the animals and crouch over rows in the garden because we feel better. And the food that we produce tastes better and we take great satisfaction in preparing it because we had to work for it. We get to share all of this with our friends and community; growing, nourishing and sustaining one another, living richly and in fullness.

That is what we are trying to do.

……….

Thanks, Sarah!

And just so we’re all on the same page, neither Sarah and Bubba nor The Collective is a sponsor or affiliate of this blog. They didn’t pay me for this post. Or give me extra bacon. I am pretty sure they’ve discounted my food or increased my family’s portion on more than one occasion, but I don’t have proof of their nefarious, underhanded generosity, so I’m not sure how to disclose it. In short (too late), I’m writing about the Bubbas because I believe in what they’re doing and I think you’ll like them, too.

And now, a community question for YOU.

How do YOU feed your family? Organic? Pesticide-free? Fresh? Fast food? Off-brand mac and cheese from the discount grocery store? All of the above? I just wonder… am I alone out here with my pendulum nutrition swings? Help me out.

……….