Poultry Farming

This weekend, as is usual for me, I spent a fair amount of time dispensing advice and ideas on how to cook a chicken (pressure cooker! Dutch oven! Butterflied! Yogurt-marinated! I could go on ...) And, as I do most days, I spent some time considering the price of our chicken.

A big worry for Zack and I is that we are pricing out the lower-income consumers. This is not our intent, and is something we work to avoid. However, our profits are not very large, and we live on the margins, so we can't shave them too slim. With the food from Laughing Earth, you are paying closer to the full cost of your food than when you shop at the grocery store, which means the price tag is larger. 

However, paying more per pound up front does not mean you're getting a worse deal. You get the flavor, the moist meat, the heart-warming experience of buying direct from the person who raised the animal. You get the option to take a walk in a beautiful place to visit the chickens while they are growing on pasture. You get the opportunity to ask the farmer for cooking advice when you buy it. 

You also know that the people who raise the chicken are not locked into a sharecropper system of debt whereby their choices are eroded in the name of funneling more profits to a corporation.

You also know that the people who process the chickens (the same as the people who raise them, on our farm!) have safe working conditions, and only perform the job for half a day every two weeks, reducing the risk for repetitive stress injury. They are not berated and threatened to encourage them to work faster.

Our farm is not perfect. We don't pay our employees as much as we would like to, and our pastures could be more diverse and fertile. But we are trying to acknowledge the downsides of meat eating, and trying to address those issues and reduce them. 

So the next time you visit our farm or market stand and find yourself thinking, "Wow, that's a lot of money for chicken" ... think again. Your decision to purchase organic, small-scale, local chicken is helping to turn the tide away from human rights abuses in the poultry industry. It's also helping one family in your community to live their dream.

Why FarmShare?

So, it's full-on Spring, and I am deep into trying to convince community members to become FarmShare members. Why would someone do this crazy thing? Why on Earth would someone pay a farmer a huge chunk of money MONTHS before getting vegetables, and without even knowing what the vegetables will be? Why pay to have someone choose your produce for you? Why pay for produce that you don't even know if you'll like, and that you don't even get to choose to suit your menu for the week? 

I have a few good reasons. 

First off, I think for many people, the actual produce is secondary. The money that they give to me, their farmer, is their investment in a community - a human community as well as an ecological community. The money they pay me is their support for a system that I am striving to be a healthy, useful part of. The farmer and the members are making an agreement that locally, sustainably, ethically grown food is of importance to them. The members are saying, please, do this for us, and the farmer is saying, thanks for letting me do this for you. 

Secondly, the community of people at the farm is the best. All of our members come to the farm to pick up their veggies. This means, at least, they get reconnected to the place that grew their food when they come each week to get it. The farm is *their* farm - theirs to take walks on, have a picnic, swing by on the way home from (or to!) work to get the herbs they want for dinner. Even if they don't see any other people, the farm is here for them. Hopefully they do see people, though - one of their farmers, to answer questions about the weird vegetable in the share this week, or something ELSE to do with kale, or even just commiserate about the weather. And hopefully, they get to see some of their fellow members, for a chat in the picking garden while they harvest cherry tomatoes, or to exchange recipes. They are in this together - fellow members of a sisterhood of the faithful - those that have faith in the soil and in us, the hopeful farmers tending it.

Finally, the food. Same-day harvest means you're getting as much nutrition as possible from these tender, ephemeral veggies - no cross-country road trips here! Food harvested by someone you know also feeds something more than your stomach. When you eat food from your FarmShare, you know that you are contributing to 1. land that won't be turned into a housing development, but will continue to produce food for the community 2. the livelihood of a family in your community, a family that chooses to invest in other local businesses and thereby bolster the economy where you live and 3. a small farm that focuses on minimizing its negative environmental impacts in the community where you live (no effluent ponds here! no high-nitrate runoff into the Quackenkill here!).

So, that's why people choose to give up a little control over what is in their baskets of produce. The wonderful people who are members of my FarmShare community are making other choices, which have ripples far beyond their dinner plates.

Thank you to my community. Thank you for making all of this possible.

Community and the path forward

Today I am feeling very grateful to my elders. I don't mean old people, I mean those who walked this path before me. Those who walked this path before I discovered it, who improved the trail, built the bridges, and made a map. Those who did all that so that they could use the trail, but then stayed to help guide me as well. 

Farming is not an easy business. There is no kind of farming that is easy. Small-scale, sustainable, diversified farming is an especially difficult business. Not only are we growing food, but we are also trying to change people's minds, repair damaged ecosystems, alleviate climate change, build communities where they have been hollowed by the ravages of a capitalist economy that cares not for human lives, repair people's severed connections with the natural world ... In other words, there's a big load to carry. Maybe not all of my farming peers feel that this is their job description, but I do, and I often feel like I'm in the middle of the ocean riding on an inflatable pool toy. In this line of work, the community of fellow farmers is everything.

Today I had the pleasure of receiving knowledge and guidance from one of my elders, someone not so old in years but deep in his well of understanding. Sitting at his table, talking through what he has seen and what we are struggling with felt like climbing aboard a ship after being adrift in that ocean. There's hope. There are others feeling this way, others working through these problems, and workable solutions are attainable. We can succeed, and are not doomed to poverty and losing the farm and whatever other horrible fates visit my mind in the darkness of night. 

I left his house feeling so flooded by gratitude, that he had spent so much of his valuable time - not just on us, mind you, he is a mentor, a guide on the trail, to an entire generation of farmers - to reassure us and to show us where to go and how to build something successful. Here is someone who understands what a community is. When one of us is raised up, it raises us all. A rising tide lifts all ships, if you have a ship. So help the others get a ship, too, or pull them on board yours. 

Our mentor and his partner are exemplary in the community in their commitment to raising us all as they are raised, in distributing their earned knowledge as widely and as thoroughly as they possibly can. They are not the exception, though. I am so glad to be a member of a peer group that by and large views each other as co-conspirators rather than competitors. Our "competitors" are the industrial food system, human lethargy and ignorance about what we're doing to the world, and environmental degradation. Our fellow farmers are equally as important to our success as we ourselves are. I am glad to have been brought into farming by mentors such as these, who have gifted me with an abundance mindset, rather than a view of scarcity. See all that we have to work with - Sun, soil, water,  flora, fauna, people with such towering gifts. Such a huge net of interactions to learn from, to draw on, to benefit from. 

Spending time with mentors such as these helps me to re-center myself into a positive focus on the things that matter. We are here to grow life, to grow love, to leave things better than we found them. I only hope that, when given the opportunity, I offer similar help to those following me down the path.

The Real Cost of Meat

This willful blindness allows them to continue to participate in the industrial food system. If they cannot acknowledge that their hamburger has ever been a cow, then why would they care whether that cow had ever eaten grass or gotten to wade through a verdant pasture? Why would they care how that cow died? Why would they care whether the slaughterhouse workers were given adequate breaks, safety gear, or physical therapy if they experienced repetitive stress injuries? Why would they care what happens to the manure produced by that cow and its millions of brethren?

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