Saturday, August 01, 2009

A book that changed my life.

My darling friends – it’s been awhile… I hope you will all forgive me.

I’m back.

Not that I’ve gone anywhere (okay, I did go to Utah in June, and Canada in July, and maybe you’ll hear about that later). But, I think my heart had gone out of blogging, and I HAVE missed it. And you.

A year ago, I read a book that changed my life. It’s not very often that I would make such a dramatic statement about a book (although, of course, the Book of Mormon changes me and hopefully my life often). But, outside of scripture, I rarely can say that a book has truly changed the way I live. This informative and thoroughly well written and enjoyable read is called Animal Vegetable Miracle, and it’s written by award winning author Barbara Kingsolver, along with her husband, Steven Hopp and her daughter, Camille Kingsolver. It details their family’s decision to try to live a year eating only what they could buy locally or grow themselves.

At first, the concept seemed fairly radical to me – it definitely was different from the way that I structured our family’s eating, shopping and menus. I had never given a serious thought before to how far my food had traveled to reach me. One of the statistics that Steven Hopp presents is that most of the items on the shelf at a supermarket traveled farther to get there than your family will travel on vacation this year. Once you add up all of those gasoline guzzling groceries, think about how much gasoline we are expending just to eat. The goal is to wring out as much oil from our food chain as possible.

I had already been trying for several years to eat in a healthy way – unprocessed food, organic when possible, and hormone free dairy and meat. After reading the Kingsolver’s book, we started taking a good look at our culinary lives, and how disconnected we were from our food chain, and the farmers who grow the food we eat. I started going to our farmer’s market every week, and buying and eating locally grown, in season produce. The amazing part is how cheap it is, and how much better than anything we can get at the grocery store! We buy our honey at our famer’s market, too, raw and unprocessed.

Some things are definitely more expensive - we started buying our milk from a local, organic dairy. We recently bought half a cow, pasture raised and fed it’s entire life. One of the most satisfying parts of living and eating this way is that I meet the men and women who grow and raise our food. They are good people, and I LOVE giving them my money, and knowing that none of it is going to make some CEO in an office even more ridiculously rich, while the humble and hardworking farmer eeks out a living, barely surviving if they are lucky. While the meat and dairy ARE more expensive than what I could buy at Walmart, we are getting infinitely better quality. I have been to the farms where our food is grown, and they are certainly not getting wealthy on what they charge us – but they are seeking to live in a sustainable, healthy way themselves, and hopefully make enough to live on and pay their own bills. I frequently thank the Lord for these hardworking men and women who are so committed to raising food in a healthy way. I make my food budget stretch farther by doing most of my cooking from scratch, eating out rarely (and fast food almost never), and not buying convenience items.

The best part of eating this way is that our family is healthier than we have ever been. We rarely get sick (seriously – the flu bug will go around our entire primary, and our kids don’t get it). Ben and I may feel the beginnings of a cold setting in, a tickle in the back of our throat or something, and it’s gone in a day. My interstitial cystitis (a painful bladder disease) has been in complete remission for the last year. Our immune systems are thriving!

We also have our own garden. We have had our successes and failures this year, but I am hopeful that I will continue to learn and get better at growing my own food. I even hope to have chickens someday. I think that I am truly a farm girl at heart – I find a lot of peace digging in the dirt.

I was talking to a friend about this process the other day, and I realized that, while all of this sounds difficult and strange, the hardest part is taking the first step. I think the easiest place to begin is by looking up your local farmer’s market. Google your town and “farmers market” and see what you can find. Go. Meet a farmer. Ask them questions about what they grow (I’ve found most farmers are really passionate about the food they raise, and they love to tell you about it). Talking to our farmers has given me a lot of good ideas for combating the hornworms that decimated the tomatoes in my garden last year.

And, yes, I DO occasionally shop at the grocery store still. We even buy bananas (the hummer of the produce section) because it’s one of the few fruits Sam will eat. But, I try to plan our menus about what is locally in season, what is growing in our garden and I can find at the Farmer’s Market. Wring a little bit of oil out of your food chain… since we have, we have become healthier, and I can honestly say that we eat the most savory, scrumptious fare possible. Eating local isn’t just healthy and good for the farmers – it’s delicious!


Janice {Run Far} said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing this book. I am def interested in reading, and finding out more. I love out Farmers Market.

Lara said...

I have a few friends who have done this, and I would like to try. I did the Farmer's Market in AZ, but haven't ever gone here.

Putting that book on my to read list! Thanks Mary!

Cox Clan said...

Wow. This was great info. It is inspiring to me. We do have chickens. Unfortunately it does cost more to buy thier feed than it would to buy eggs. I am going to look up our farmers market. Thanks.

Joanna said...

Mary, you know I would love to spend a week or two in your kitchen and your garden watching and trying to learn how you do it all. I'm hoping that we'll find lots of community support for healthy eating when we get to Berrien Springs.

Also, I have Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on audio book on my iPod at this moment. I'm hoping to get through a lot of it on the drive to California next week.

Bonnie and Brian Wayne said...

WELL SAID MARY!!! I will have to get that book. It sounds like something that would totally hit home for me as well.

AND I really want you to do a blog on my fitness blog about your experience with Kefir and what you know about it.

PS I just bought raw honey from a blueberry farm - and it was SO cheap I couldn't believe it - for a huge container - like 2 lbs. it was only $8.00!

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