What’s in a Number?

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilema

Last year we bought a cow. Half a cow technically. From our neighbor. He raises beef cattle across the lane from us.

Cattle watching us from their pasture.

A lot of thinking went into this decision. Ultimately it made sense on a lot of levels for our family. Financially it was a win. But more importantly, we knew exactly how and where the cow was raised. We knew the cattle were raised ethically. We knew they were grass fed with no added hormones or other adulterations. We knew that they were treated with reverence and that they suffered only one bad day in their existence.

We thought about our food.

In an era where many children think their food comes pre-wrapped in four-color printed plastic from the grocery store, thinking about our food in this way might seem abnormal.

Christine has led the initiative in getting us to think more about our food here on the homestead. For months now, and with nearly every meal, she points out not only what on our plate came from our farm, but what we could also reasonably expect to source from our land in the future.

A Simple Dinner

As an example, in the dinner above we identify those things we grew (Brussels Sprouts, Chinese Noodle Beans, and the contents of the Corn & Ground Cherry Salad), the things that we sourced locally (the wine), and what was purchased from the grocery store (the chicken quarters). Of the five items on the table, three we grew on the homestead (60% of our meal), one was locally sourced (20%), and one was purchased from the grocery store (20%).

We’re not likely to start making our own wine, so locally sourcing that 20 percent is probably going to continue. But the chicken is something we’ve considered raising on the farm. Meat birds are something we could easily do. That would put this meal at 80 percent sourced from right here on the homestead.

Those are pretty solid numbers for the effort on our part. There’s a sense of satisfaction and security that comes with being able to provide our own food. Not every meal needs to be as close to 100% as possible. But just being cognizant of where food comes from is a step in the right direction. Growing what we can, sourcing food locally, and thinking about what we purchase are all steps towards healthier and more sustainable living.

Thinking about our food, and how much of it is from the farm (or at least local), challenges us to see what else we can produce for ourselves on the farm. We have access to beef from the neighbor. We produce our own eggs. Why not do meat birds as well? We have a great pollinator habit on the property. Maybe honey bees could be in our future. The point is there is nothing that limits us from being able to try to source and preserve more of our food from right here on the homestead.

Next time you sit down to eat, think about what is on your plate, where it came from, and how it got there. What is there that you can grow or raise yourself? What is something you can purchase locally as opposed to from a giant commercial grocer? What can you get in season that does not need to travel thousands of miles to reach your plate? What would taste so much better if it were fresh and prepared that day?

Take just a moment to think about those things. Then do whatever it is you can in your particular situation and circumstance. Can you only grow tomatoes in a container on your patio? That’s great! Go for it! Can you produce 10% of what you eat? That’s both a great start and more than most. Twenty percent? Even better! Ultimately you will be rewarded with better tasting, more nutritious, and fresher food.

We started small. But we were mindful of what we consumed. We watched our numbers with each meal. We grew our efforts to be more sustainable and secure in our food sourcing. We’re blessed to have what we have built here. And we’re going to keep growing. Always aiming for a little percent more.

So what’s your number? Take a look and start today. We guarantee you’ll be rewarded for every bit that you do.

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