[This post originally appeared on the Chicago Moms Blog on March 18, 2010. I am reposting it here because I've been thinking a LOT about food and where it comes from lately. More on that very soon!]
Not too long ago, my husband and I took advantage of the watch-it-now-! feature on Netflix. I was hoping for a cuddle-worthy romantic comedy or perhaps an episode of Glee. No such luck: it was documentary night. He had just finished reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and was chattering on about eating mostly plants and decreasing our meat consumption. We agreed on watching Food, Inc., since we'd been hearing a lot about it from friends. So after a few minutes of fiddling with various cords to connect the laptop to the television, the enlightenment started. I have to admit, I was riveted. Of course we were disturbed (isn't that the point of almost every documentary?), but I was also completely grossed out. This yuk-factor motivated me to search for alternatives to the conventional meat we buy at our local grocery store. I had heard about Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, from various friends, but only for produce. Finding a CSA that offered meat in the Chicago area took a little more digging, but after a bit of research we decided to join Walnut Acres Family Farm.
CSAs are smaller farms that grow produce, or in the case of Walnut Acres, meat, poultry, and eggs. The cattle are full time pasture animals, eating mostly grass and hay. This was a relief to hear after contemplating the conventional method of cattle farming. It seems that "conventional" methods have become quite complicated and, in reality, unnatural. I know I have almost zero awareness of where our food comes from and the effort it takes to provide it.
My son and I are reading Little House in the Big Woods right now - and I realized with a shock that the images of Pa smoking pig and hanging the meat in the attic (obviously uninsulated!) for winter consumption were brand new concepts for him. It's not that I think this lack of awareness is a bad thing - he is only four. Maybe it was my own detachment that was jolting. Despite this, I definitely do not want to run right out and put a downpayment on a farm - I struggle with keeping the vegetable garden weeded in the summer!
We don't pick up our first "meat installment" until March 20th, but I am looking forward to supporting a local farmer and getting a bit of our grocery budget in line with our emerging family beliefs. My husband and I talk a lot about finding ways to live local - supporting our Main Street family businesses and shopping the Farmers' Market in the warmer months - but I guess making a commitment to at least three months of membership in the CSA, it feels like a more authentic leap towards a true relationship with our food and the farmers responsible for harvesting it.