The blog of Hope Grows

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Health is Our Best Accessory

Just had one of those middle of the night epiphanies, and needed to put some thoughts down. I'm sharing them here in hopes that they'll encourage me--and maybe you--in the future.

The farm team is pretty healthy, but let's face it: we could do better. We're unusual, Mark, Elliott, and I (Ari-Anne) in that we eat mostly (80-90%) local foods, most of them vegetables. Meat does happen, but it tends to happen responsibly, usually once or twice a month from local farms. In many ways, I have to affirm what we already do--compared to the average American family, we seem to come from a whole other universe. But the thing is, I want to do better.

For example, Elliott has a bit of a sweet tooth and an affinity for junk foods, especially when we're stressed. And though I know the Klondike bar or the bag of sea salt and vinegar tasties represent an industrialized food system I want no part of, they can be so damn tantalizing. Rationally, I don't "want" the food, but if it enters the house it whispers incessant eat-me messages from the cupboard or the freezer. This is especially difficult to deal with when I'm on my cycle, feeling vulnerable and generally uncomfortable.

Another place we splurge is at the modern southern-style dinner*, where there's always a dazzling array of high fructose corn syrup, Crisco, Velveeta, country crock, refined sugars, etc. You know the typical fare: extra sweet tea, fried Claxton chicken, ham, bacon, mashed potatoes, bar-b-que, macaroni and cheese, more ham, fried chicken, biscuits, casseroles topped with bacon, pork chops, and don't forget the potato salad with copious amounts of mayonnaise. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this food, and the fact that I grew up on it makes it a comforting, nostalgic experience. But to be honest, the comfort only happens on the way down. We usually spend the rest of the day in and out of the bathroom, wondering if the 20 minutes of taste bud bliss was worth it. This is no exaggeration--the stuff shocks our systems. But it can be pretty darn difficult to turn down, especially from a social standpoint.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about asceticism here. I do think that food should be an enjoyable experience, even comforting from time to time--but we, the farm team at least, can start doing better at it. We don't have to eat outside of our values to have enjoyable experiences. The food that we produce, "we" being a community of farmers here in South Georgia, simply tastes better. And food that's good, clean, and fair should taste better. But why the slippage from time to time? Convenience is a big part of it. Social convention. Upbringing. Opting for something else is easier said than done.

Lying in bed in the middle of the night with a stomach ache after one of these southern-fried binges, I realized that true health is the best marketing accessory we've got--for the eggs, the chicken, the bread, and for local foods in general. If I don't project an image of health, then my message is lost. From a business and a personal perspective, no one will want the Kool-Aid that I'm selling if it doesn't make me look and feel great. And what we're selling here isn't just food, it's un-industrialized thinking, it's chemical free, it's local economy, it's interdependent communities, it is health--all part of a future we want.

*Let it be clear that I respect southern food traditions, and often cook southern recipes in my own kitchen: field peas and rice, stewed tomatoes, potato salad, etc. But what I'm referencing here is not the food of our forebears, i.e. the food that came from small, diverse family farms, served up fresh. What I'm talking about is southern convenience food, made with ingredients that come from factories and large, monoculture farms far from right around the corner.

1 comment:

  1. Right on! Keep on spreading the message and the LOVE! Food and love are inextricably you're too I made this just for you. Eating is emotional, and we need to love our bodies and our overall health more than those MANufactured cravings!

    What is most needed is tough regulations on the mass food processing industry to bring their costs in line and more investment in natural food producing to achieve parity. Unfortunately, the consumer is not value-driven.