Well, The Younger Brother is a smart guy and all of that, but still hasn’t figured out that I’ve got the keys to the kingdom while he’s busy moving and has disconnected his computers. It’s like when the neighbors go on vacation and forget to lock the gate to their pool. And leave the bar refrigerator unlocked. Well, not unlocked maybe, but the key is under a rock next to the slide.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, speaking of people being off-line, you may have heard that with the impending debt and borrowing fiasco, the politicians are saying entire agencies may shut down if they can’t come to an agreement to keep spending money we’ll never be able to repay. The FAA, the FCC, the EPA, etc., etc. The whole alphabet soup would just stand down. Including the USDA.
Sorry — having a moment enjoying the thought. Of course, we’re being told how scary it would be with no USDA. Since factory farming and food processing and packaging operations wouldn’t have any government inspectors, it wouldn’t be possible for us to get any food. That’s because without government workers on the scene, the food industry would be able to carry out its evil plot to poison all of us.
Maybe that wouldn’t really happen, but how else would Americans be able to get obscenely bad nutritional advice? Who is going to pass out subsidy checks to our friends in the grain industry? Who’s going to artificially prop prices up, then pass out food stamps and WIC cards because food costs so much? How is it possible to find food without the government on the job?
I don’t know the answer for the first three, but found an answer to the last one Monday.
You’ve probably heard the old adage that “grandchildren are your reward for not throttling your kids when they’re teenagers.” Well, I got invited to go with my daughter and son-in-law and my two little “rewards” to a Kid’s Day tour of Veenstra Vegetables, an organic vegetable farm a few miles outside of town. It’s a chance to show little kids how and where real food comes from.
Veenstra Vegetables is on 16 acres that Garrick Veenstra and his family live and work on. Andy Heck is Garrick’s business partner on the operation and has a plot of his own where they grow most of their tomatoes.
Here’s Garrick’s “office”…
We got started by piling onto a hay wagon so Andy could take us on the “morning commute.” Amazingly, we all managed to get on and made the ride out to the tuber patch without mishap, even though there were no seat belts or air bags. Maybe it would be okay for the National Highway traffic Safety Administration to take a few days off.
Here’s a mound of Mother Nature’s fertilizer. Notice there’s no meth heads trying to steal it, so the DEA can stay home.
Also, it doesn’t kill all of the earthworms and micro-organisms that make real food real. As a matter of fact, they actually live in the stuff. And we didn’t have to have special training and wear hazmat suits around it, so the EPA can take a breather.
Here’s what some of that real food looks like, by the way. Sure, there’s some weeds in there, but real food is about balance. You’re not trying to annihilate everything besides your crop, just maybe put enough of a scare in them so they don’t takeover the neighborhood (the wall of corn in the background is where the neighbor’s farm starts).
Andy took us out to where some of their yellow potatoes where ready for harvest, and the kids got to do the two things they do best – explore with inquisitive joy, and get dirty!
Fortunately for everyone involved, no one from the Labor Department was around to witness this flagrant exploitation and violation of child labor laws.
While the kids were busy expressing their kidness, the worms were busy expressing their wormness as high efficiency aeration, fertilization, and soil enhancement specialists. Somehow they managed to develop these skills without a Department of Agriculture grant.
Then we all headed back into Garrick’s office, where he proceeded to teach the youngsters about seeds and planting. Here’s his high-tech, state-of-the-art organic planter. It already exceeds all recommended fuel efficiency standards.
They all got to see and feel different seeds, and Garrick seemed to have effectively imparted this knowledge – actually, the kids were captivated — without any credentials from the Education Department. I checked to make sure as we moved on to the next area of the tour and sure enough, there was No Child Left Behind. Hmmm.
The next stop was under a tent set up next to the chicken pen (we’re still in hot and humid mode), where Garrick’s daughter gave the kids a lesson on chickens and eggs (with an able assist from a nice woman from the Extension Service, so it wasn’t a total government-free morning).
Then all of the kids got to give some feed to the chickens and do a little “free-ranging” along with them.
The fence is portable so the chickens and coops can be moved frequently. They leave behind a piece of ground that has been scratched, aerated, fertilized, and cleared of bugs; and the chickens regularly get the fresh forage and tasty bugs that make free-range eggs so much better than the ones from the mega-mart.
It also reduces the amount of feed that has to be purchased, and prevents chicken-specific pathogens from getting a foothold. As the chickens are moved off a parcel, Mother Nature’s sterilization protocol – time, lack of a host, and sunshine – goes to work.
Last stop was a gentleman (I’m sorry I forgot to get his name) who works with Mother Nature’s little sugar factories.
As low-carbers, we shy away from sugar in all of its forms, but if you want something sweet, this is pretty darned paleo. It was also pretty darned good. Besides little samples of fresh honey, he also let us sample chunks of honeycomb from a colony he’d been called to remove from a grain bin the day before. Amazing. As Tom posits in Fat Head, maybe Mother Nature does know what she’s doing.
For my “learned something today I had no idea about” category, this apiarist said that bee colony collapse disorder hasn’t reached Illinois. In fact, most of the reported cases are among huge commercial beekeeping operations operated as pollination services. He also said these operations feed the bees – get this, fellow Fat Heads – HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. Holy crud. They also usually destroy all of the bees at the end of pollination season, because it’s more profitable to sell off all of the honey and start with new bees next year. Yep, bees are factory farmed!
Well, anyway, that ended our day at the farm. It turns out we can get all of the food we need without the EPA, DEA, NHSTA, or even the amazingly bad USDA. I was going to suggest to Garrick that maybe he could wash the entire farm down every day with industrial strength bleach like the factory food processors do, but thought I might want to get invited back some time.
I did buy a carton of Garrick’s eggs before leaving. He can sell them on the farm, but not at the Farmer’s Market (too many regs and paperwork). In case you don’t get out much, here’s what real eggs look like.
I just read that farm fresh (never refrigerated eggs) will actually keep longer out of the refrigerator if you don’t wash them — just turn them every day or two to keep an air bubble from letting the shell get porous (just rotate the whole carton upside-down or rightside-up on alternate days).
Today, I went down to the Veenstra’s Vegetables stand at the local Farmer’s Market and picked up ingredients for tonight’s dinner (“Sara’s Awesome BLT’s”).
As you can see, it looks like you can get real food without the feds inserting themselves into every single transaction everywhere.
If the feds do shut down, however, it might not be so easy at the local mega-mart, where most of what they sell has to pass through all of those agencies. In that case, it would be good if you already knew some of these folks. There’s probably a local market somewhere near you. I’d suggest you check it out, if you haven’t already. Today would be good.
And here’s what it looks like when you buy fresh and local. That’s lamb sticks for snacking in the package (like Slim Jims – very good).
The lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, and red onion are for the BLT’s. Yes, red onion. There’s even more. I’ll fill you in later if Tom hasn’t found out I’ve been playing in his sandbox again.
See you in the comments!
The Older Brother