What we're afraid of

Spring buds under gray spring sky

I had an experience this morning that kind of got my panties in a bunch, so to speak. When I dropped Rafe off at preschool, I asked his teacher if she’d like me to bring baby chicks in for the class to see. And without going into the whole conversation, the short answer was, no, because of avian flu concerns and immunization concerns, etc. But some pictures of the chicks would be okay.

Before I go on, I want to make it very clear that I am not upset with the teacher. I’m not faulting her at all. She’s a dear woman who does a wonderful job trying to prepare these little people for kindergarten, teach them some manners, and bring a Christian perspective to it all. I feel for her, and all of the government mandates that she has to try and work under.

But it got me to thinking about society in general, and it seems like we’re afraid of the wrong things. We’re afraid of baby chicks, God’s creatures, of avian flu which has never yet manifested on this continent. But we happily gobble down corn chips made with GMO-corn. Or lunch meat with laboratory-produced bacteria sprayed on it. And probably soon, meat and milk from cloned animals.

We’re letting the government tell us what to be afraid of, and what not to be afraid of. And who is the government these days? Sadly, not our elected representatives but those with the money to influence those representatives. How much of Monsanto’s budget do you think goes to lobbying efforts to keep their products in the food chain?

I’m sure I’m not the only one, at least in this blog’s readership, that’s more afraid of what a food chain comprised of genetically modified organisms, so-called “good” bacteria, and cloned animals is doing to our bodies than of a baby chick. And I’m sure I’ll be labeled the odd girl out, a hippie, and just plain un-American because of it.

But why do we need bacteria sprayed onto our hot dogs and lunch meat? Because we are so far removed from our food source. Someone else is making our food for us. Someone else that we will never meet. Is it any wonder that people don’t trust each other anymore? The person making our hot dogs doesn’t have to see us on the street, look us in the eye, and assure us that they took every proper safety precaution at their job that day.

The person that drove the truck carrying those hot dogs to the store doesn’t have to see us on the street, look us in the eye, and assure us that the truck was properly refrigerated that day and the hot dogs went immediately from refrigerated truck to refrigerated case.

Unlike our local meat locker, these people’s jobs do not depend on the consumers being happy (and healthy) from their products.

In typical government style, we won’t fix the problems in the food supply chain. Or better yet, encourage local food systems. We’ll just spray bacteria on the food, a bandaid to cover up the problem and make the unthinking consumer feel safe. And best of all, they don’t even have to tell us what we’re actually eating. There is no requirement that foods made from GMO’s or clones, or foods sprayed with bacteria, be labeled as such.

Do you think it’s because they’re afraid we won’t buy their food if we know the truth?

But we who direct market food do see our customers on the street, do have to look them in the eye. We feel a responsibility to our customers to provide nourishing food, safe food, with integrity and honesty and complete transparency.

More than angry, it makes me sad. Sad that there will be children growing up having never held a baby chick. Another generation, now even further removed from the source of their food than the last. Only experiencing farm animals in pictures.

I called Matt at work and told him about the exchange. His response? “That’s why we have to keep on doing what we’re doing.”

Those of you who are already our customers know you have a standing invitation to visit the farm, get up close and personal with the animals. Now I extend that invitation to any others of you reading this blog. We get baby chicks in April and August. Bring the kids out to cuddle them. Or yourself – have you held a baby chick? During the months of May and September you can come check out our protected free-range system of raising the broiler chickens on pasture. And there’s always a pig here needing a scratch behind the ears, or cattle to just stand around and admire.

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11 Responses to What we're afraid of

  1. Lynne says:

    Matt’s right – you just keep on doing what you’re doing… and perhaps some day the rest of the world will wake up… So sorry the kidlets won’t be able to see the baby chicks… because really, how cool would that be???? I think you are absolutely 100% on target — just keep on trying… the real crime would be to let the media’s dramatizationn affect more people than it has to.

  2. ang says:

    Wow, you made me cry! It’s a scary thought as to what our Grandchildren’s grandchildren will be eating if things don’t change. The Center for Food Safety (www.centerforfoodsafety.org) is taking action opposing animal clones anyone can visit the site to take action.

  3. ang says:

    Wow, you made me cry! It’s a scary thought as to what our Grandchildren’s grandchildren will be eating if things don’t change. The Center for Food Safety (www.centerforfoodsafety.org) is taking action opposing animal clones anyone can visit the site to take action.

  4. Jaspreet says:

    You should read the book (if you have not already) All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki which talks about farming, genetically modified food, and family. It is a wonderful read and I think will resonate with what you have written here.

  5. Rurality says:

    Good grief. Unlike you, I think I would have to blame the teacher, for being so uneducated! (I think Matt has it right.)

  6. Although I agree with you on most aspects I sure don’t when it comes to the trucking part of your post. Any good driver (and there are many) has a huge responibility when hauling your food. We also have on board recorders (that record the trailer temps)that are locked in the trailer when loaded at point A(in an unknown location) until the load is delivered at point B. It is then verified by the unloader. If you want to look down on anyone in the trucking industry, please look towards the owners of the trucking companies that own the trucks and put inexperienced drivers behind the wheel that don’t belong there.

  7. PC – I wasn’t looking down on anyone in the trucking industry or anywhere else in the food chain. My point was simply that our food passes through a lot of hands – slaughter, processing, transportation, storage and sales – and we usually do not have a personal relationship with any of the people in this chain. Compared to buying direct – from a local baker, local farmer, local meat locker – where the chain is shorter and we typically do know personally at least some of those people. My contention is that the personal relationship raises accountability and therefore trust. Though certainly there are exceptions to that, in either food system. But I would think the exceptions would be fewer in a direct food system because one major complaint could ruin the producer, whereas one complaint in the trans-continental food system will probably not result in that factory worker losing his or her job.

  8. Linda says:

    Lurker here! Are you anywhere near Waterloo? We might be out that way after Easter … I might take you up on that offer!I grew up in the country … my pets were Canadian geese that I raised from the moment that they hatched … my neighbors had chickens and cows. But now I raise my children in the city … ya know, the old story, ya live where the jobs are! But I digress, my kids have visited those “touristy” farms … but never a real working farm … and I know from experience that there is certainly a difference!Let me know!

  9. Haymaker says:

    Michael Crichton (author lots of books and movies, e.g. Jurrasic Park, Twister, Andromeda Strain, etc.) has studied why humans need something to fear. It’s something innate to us. Beware of the politician and Fear-monger who wants to use this. See: http://www.crichton-official.com/fear/

  10. Linda – we are about 70 miles northwest of Waterloo. Chicks arrive on April 12th. Let me know!

  11. Willa says:

    I’ve been listening to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan- I’m sure you have already read it. I’m only 3 chapters into it, but it has been fascinating- the description of the Iowa corn farmers would be especially interesting to you, I’d think.Willa

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