So.... what got us here? Two science-type people from the 'burbs ran out and bought some acres in the rural-burbs. They opened some books, learned about farming, bought some chickens and some sheep, planted some seeds and some fruit trees and tried to make their acres sustainable. We already had a love for food, and I was getting better at learning to cook good food from real ingredients.
There are a lot of folks moving through different food journeys. Our growing-of-our-own-food journey started with a few books...
The Omnivore's Dilemma is a book that discusses food choices. We recognized that we vote with every dollar we spend. But trying to make the right choice can be hard. Those organic jeans are a lot more expensive, and am I making the world a better place by buying them? How about fair trade? How do I know the meat I buy at the store came from a cow that had a decent life? Did my chicken get hung by its feet while it was still alive? How can I eat that? This book put into words the feelings I already had about where meat comes from, and pointed out that I am not the only one who felt uncomfortable with our current food system. What could we do differently?
So we decided the only way we could know was to raise our own food. Ah ha - inside of me, what I heard was that I can raise MORE ANIMALS! As a HUGE dog lover who already had 3 of my own dogs, any excuse for more critters sounded awesome.
So, we decided to raise some farm animals. This meant more books. Joel Salatin wrote You Can Farm. We both took different things from this book (believe me, I did NOT miss the part where he had 400 acres inherited from his family...) But we learned a lot from this book. As well as Pastured Poultry Profits, The New Organic Grower and Four-Season Harvest.
The learning was happening and we were trying to put it into practice. But it really came down to a choice, one that can be hard for consumers to find - humane meat. How can you make sure your animals lived a happy life? How can you know?
If you raise your own, you can be sure. You can give them a good life, and what we often say is "one bad moment" when you say goodbye and process them as humanely as possible. If you don't or can't raise your own meat, how can you know? Meeting your farmer is one way to also meet your potential future dinner. There are more small farms popping up, and you can find them near you.
This is a bit of a movement, and it is MORE than just treating animals humanely, it's about treating our earth as best as we can. This can be considered Ethical Omnivorism, as well as Regenerative Agriculture. As much as it is inhumane to raise chickens in cages, or cows in a feed lot, row cropping corn and soy beans can also be a drain on the environment and damaging to the earth.
Finding small farms that use all their outputs as inputs is part of that. We didn't realize what we were doing, and never put words to it, but yeah, we manage our flock size so that it is appropriate for our pasture. We clean the stalls, and compost the output, and put it back out onto the pasture to give nutrients back to the soil, we may use it in our greenhouse to grow veggies (when we can manage that). We also keep some other things from becoming waste streams - we give spent brewers grains to the sheep and chickens, we compost the hops from the brewery (too bitter, no one seems to want to eat them), we also get old, unsellable bread from a local bakery and feed that to the chickens. Things that would otherwise end up in a landfill, become food, which becomes compost, which becomes food for plants. It's a cycle!
So how can you learn more about being an ethical omnivore? This facebook page brings together like-minded people, with scientific research to discuss just this. You can also check out all the resources on their website. Being an omnivore is more than just about how well our meat is raised, but also our veggies, grains and seafood. Are we making the best choices for us and for the environment? We can all play a part - and you don't have to start your own farm to do it. We are happy to play a role in your food journey, but it isn't possible for everyone to raise their own meat. Just like we can't grow all the food we need to consume, we need a community of growers to support all of us.