The Real Cost

The chemical food you buy at the supermarket looks cheaper than organic, but then you have to realize that you pay another bill on that food when you pay your taxes and that second bill goes to the farm subsidies.  That second installment is about the same as the first installment, so if you compare the real price of our highly processed and chemically grown food, it’s double the shelf price; organic food is rarely double the price of chemical food.  Plus there are other hidden costs:  We taxpayers end up paying to clean up the water and the air from those chemicals and chemical spills, and the consumer also pays more in healthcare costs for those eating chemically treated food.

Will Allen

Love Wins

Farmitarianism

There are at least two compelling reasons to refuse to eat the meat of animals produced in the factory farm system:  1) the meat is dangerous and unhealthy and 2) to avoid complicity in the cruelty to the animals that is an inherent part of that system.

I’ve blogged frequently about both of those reasons and I’m not going to plow that ground again now.  It seems to me that public awareness of the disease-breeding torture chambers known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations is increasing, and that more and more people are choosing to avoid their products.

One way to avoid posioning one’s body with the flesh of the animals harvested by the industrial food system is to become a vegetarian.  Many folks have taken this route and are healthier and happier as a result.  As I have often said, I’m convinced that if Americans had to witness the way the animals they eat are raised and slaughtered, or better yet, if they had to raise and slaughter them themselves, then a substantial majority of Americans would become vegetarians immediately.  Very few Americans want to associate the meat on their plate with a living, breathing animal, and fewer still would be willing to bloody their own hands to put it there.  Of course the industrial food complex is well aware of this, and it knows that because consumers are unwilling to look behind the curtain to see the animals before they’re processed into food, it has a blank check to fatten and tend the animals in the way that will maximize their profits, regardless of what that means to the animal or the person who will eat it.  This disconnection between meat-eaters and the animals they eat has, more than anything else, caused the disgusting situation that exists today.  I’m convinced that if they knew how the system functions, the vast majority of Americans would give up meat, rather than eat what it produces.

But is there an alternative?  Must one either accept what the animal-food industry dishes out, or become a vegetarian?

In wrestling with this issue, I’ve settled on a middle ground that is satisfactory to me.  I’ve become a farmitarian.

“Farmitarian” is a word I borrowed from something Lucas Land wrote on his blog a long time ago (I think).  I can’t remember how he used it, but by that term I mean someone who only eats the meat of animals he or she personally raised and slaughtered. 

I hate killing animals.  I mean I really, really hate it.  I genuinely believe that taking the life of another creature wounds the soul.  Those who consider killing an animal to be fun, or to be  “sport,” are missing some of their humanity, in my opinion.  But, sadly, taking the lives of young males is just an unavoidable part of animal husbandry. 

On our farm, I take very seriously our obligation of stewardship and good husbandry.  I believe the animals on our farm have been entrusted to our care, and I behave accordingly.  If I kill them, I eat them.  I choose not to eat the flesh of animals I didn’t kill.  Therefore, I know the real cost of getting a piece of meat onto my plate.  I not only know an animal died to put it there, I knew the animal through its whole life, and looked it in the eye before killing it.  Does that bother you?  It should.

I’d prefer a world in which we don’t eat the flesh of animals.  But until that day comes, we raise our animals humanely.  I know what they’ve eaten.  I know they haven’t been pumped full of antibiotics to stimulate growth.  I know they have been allowed to live as they were intended to live.  When I eat meat, I can do so knowing the meat is healthy, and the animal was raised humanely.

Obviously everyone can’t be a farmitarian.  For those who can’t, but who aren’t willing to become vegetarians, consider eating less meat, and consider getting the meat you do eat from a farmer who employs sustainable and humane pratices.  Visit the farm, preferably when the animals are being killed and processed.  Ideally, buy from someone you  know personally, who serves the same meat that is being sold to you to his or her own family.

Localharvest.org is a good place to find local farmers who don’t divorce farming from ethics.

Vive farmitarianism!

Love Wins

The Country of Marriage

The Country Of Marriage

I.

I dream of you walking at night along the streams
of the country of my birth, warm blooms and the nightsongs
of birds opening around you as you walk.
You are holding in your body the dark seed of my sleep.

II.

This comes after silence. Was it something I said
that bound me to you, some mere promise
or, worse, the fear of loneliness and death?
A man lost in the woods in the dark, I stood
still and said nothing. And then there rose in me,
like the earth’s empowering brew rising
in root and branch, the words of a dream of you
I did not know I had dreamed. I was a wanderer
who feels the solace of his native land
under his feet again and moving in his blood.
I went on, blind and faithful. Where I stepped
my track was there to steady me. It was no abyss
that lay before me, but only the level ground.

III.

Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.

IV.

How many times have I come to you out of my head
with joy, if ever a man was,
for to approach you I have given up the light
and all directions. I come to you
lost, wholly trusting as a man who goes
into the forest unarmed. It is as though I descend
slowly earthward out of the air. I rest in peace
in you, when I arrive at last.

V.

Our bond is no little economy based on the exchange
of my love and work for yours, so much for so much
of an expendable fund. We don’t know what its limits are–
that puts us in the dark. We are more together
than we know, how else could we keep on discovering
we are more together than we thought?
You are the known way leading always to the unknown,
and you are the known place to which the unknown is always
leading me back. More blessed in you than I know,
I possess nothing worthy to give you, nothing
not belittled by my saying that I possess it.
Even an hour of love is a moral predicament, a blessing
a man may be hard up to be worthy of. He can only
accept it, as a plant accepts from all the bounty of the light
enough to live, and then accepts the dark,
passing unencumbered back to the earth, as I
have fallen time and again from the great strength
of my desire, helpless, into your arms.

VI.

What I am learning to give you is my death
to set you free of me, and me from myself
into the dark and the new light. Like the water
of a deep stream, love is always too much. We
did not make it. Though we drink till we burst
we cannot have it all, or want it all.
In its abundance it survives our thirst.
In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill, and sleep, while it
flows through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us, except we keep returning
to its rich waters thirsty. We enter,
willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy.

VII.

I give you what is unbounded, passing from dark to dark,
containing darkness: a night of rain, an early morning.
I give you the life I have let live for the love of you:
a clump of orange-blooming weeds beside the road,
the young orchard waiting in the snow, our own life
that we have planted in the ground, as I
have planted mine in you. I give you my love for all
beautiful and honest women that you gather to yourself
again and again, and satisfy–and this poem,
no more mine than any man’s who has loved a woman.

Wendell Berry

Love Wins

Winter

Things are relaxed on the farm in the winter.  Sure there can be intense times, like when goats kid in snowstorms, but usually the pace is easy.  The days are short and nothing is growing.

My usual rotation of chores, which I’m lucky to finish in a week in the summer, sometimes can be done in two short winter days.  Sunrise is late and sunset is early, so it’s OK to sleep a little later and there’s time to read at night.

The relaxed schedule also gives us time to take care of things we just don’t have time to do any other time of the year.  Yesterday, for example, we walked the perimeter of the farm and re-marked some of the boundary lines.  Then we spent some time cutting old rusty fences out of trees in the woods, then dragging the wire (and various other junk we found there) out to be hauled off.

And as I look out over the pasture, where Rowan and his goat friends are grazing, I don’t worry at all about whether it needs mowing.

It’s all good.

Love Wins

Being the change.

“The church should be changing the political world by ‘being the change’ not by toeing party lines and becoming lazy spoon fed extremists.”

For more, check out this excellent post by Carole Smith Turner:

http://burnsidewriters.com/2010/09/01/the-problem-of-social-justice-and-libertarianism-christianity/

Although she is misusing the words “libertarian” and “libertarianism,” her point is otherwise well made and is food for thought.

Love Wins