I am often asked, “Why do you do it? Why do you raise animals and grow food when it is so much easier to buy it from the store?”
The short answer: “Because I want to.”
Let me explain some main focus points because the real reason is a multifaceted one.
I think most of the “general” population has lost touch with or where their food comes from. I believe the general population has a decent idea of where and how — at least if they are not blind. The steak, bacon, chicken wings and fish fillets in the grocery store were all a living creature at one point in time. I can’t guarantee that it lived a happy life or that it was humanely harvested–but I can guarantee that it was a life.
By “connection”, I speak in terms of watching my food grow from the very beginning stages to the very end– pats on the head, feedings, making sure the sun always shines for them…making sure the animal is healthy…thanking each and every chicken, duck, and turkey for the life they gave to nourish the lives of my family and I. It means making a connection and forming a trusting relationship with the local farmer who raised our beef or pork. This is also true for vegetables. Planting the seeds and watching it grow and produce fruit, until the day the frost ultimately cuts its life supply.
I think it is extremely important to teach our young the circle of life when it comes to our food — that connection is a powerful one — and I believe that they will have a greater respect for all living creatures once they respect and understand that circle. I think the mass over-producing commercialization of food production has us all out of touch. I also believe that the true farmers who are passionate about the real connection with his or her consumers falls through the cracks and does not recieve the recognition he or she deserves.
I have been told I am an old soul — or that I am just like my Grandma Hall (I take that as a compliment, by the way). My Grandma Hall canned a lot, too. I remember being a little girl and most Saturday afternoons in the fall were filled with my Mom and Grandma blanching tomatoes and stuffing them into jars. I remember the jiggling of the canner as if it were yesterday.
I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE canning and preserving. Yes, it is a LOT of work – and I mean and EPIC ton of work. We can salsa, tomatoes (stewed, diced), tomato sauces (pasta, plain, pizza), fruit (peaches, apples, apple sauce, apple cider, jams), pickled veggies (banana peppers, jalapenos, pickles). By canning these products, we avoid chemicals, not only because we grow organic, but we don’t use preservatives, unnecessary sugars (did you know most companies add sugar to their products to get you addicted to them and did you know that sugar causes a reaction to more receptors in your brain than cocaine does?)…we also avoid nasty colorants, synthetic flavorings (often labeled as “natural flavors”), soy, and hydrogenated oils.
Everything is grown on our small farm (for the most part!) or grown by a trusted source. Every ingredient passes through my fingers and into the pot. This year’s applesauce and apple cider were made from the apples we picked from a neighbor’s house or from our favorite apple tree alongside the road (picked with permission). The twenty some quarts of chicken broth that I canned was made using the roasted carcasses of chickens we had harvested this fall. It makes for some divine soup.
As for knowing how my food is treated and how it has lived — this goes back to having a connection with your food or farmer. We don’t always have animals born at our farm – some years we do let a hen hatch a clutch of eggs or we incubate some in the house ourselves. We know that the eggs that we eat and sell come from happy and healthy hens. Sometimes we order our broiler chicks from a reputable breeder and they come by special delivery. We know from the day they arrive here until the day they are harvested, their life was not in vain and we made sure each step they took was a happy one. While we do not currently raise any animal other than poultry for consumption, I can attest for those farmers that I know quite well, that do. Every day of every year, no matter the weather, no matter the holiday, their livestock is fed and cared for above and before the farmer’s own needs.
My work never seems to be done — between running my own business, the farm (which is essentially another business), homeschooling and caring for a soon-to-be four year old, and maintaining a household — I am pulled in many different directions day in and day out. Many ask where my fulfillment lies — and I answer “within it all”. The simple fact that I provide for my family in more ways than one is my fulfillment. My heart sings with joy when I walk into the house with a basket full of eggs, or when I pull a roasted chicken out of the oven — knowing that we raised and harvested it ourselves.
The pride I feel within myself for giving our daughter a life full of wonder and curiosity
while teaching her respect for animals and how to care for them by watching us do so, is overwhelming. It saddens me to no end that most households do not have the means or the patience to raise a few hens for their own fresh eggs (at one point in time, the government suggested that every household raised their own). The joy and excitement on our daughter’s face as she collects eggs is priceless and the notion that I can give her that — IS my fulfillment.
At the end of the day when I finally sit down on the couch to attempt to catch up on the latest book I am reading, or a recorded TV show, I smile inside. My animals are taken care of, I’ve made meals using ingredients that we have grown, I’ve contributed to the finances (in more ways than just my Etsy Shop — I believe that cooking at home with wholesome ingredients and providing milk, eggs, meat, and canned goods saves us money overall), and I have a happy husband and a thriving daughter.
Ever since I can remember, I found myself longing for a life with animals. I mean, I have had pets– dogs, cats, fish, reptiles, birds, etc. While they showed me love and I loved them in return, I still felt like I needed something more. I begged and begged for a pony or horse, and to no avail– I remained horseless. I see that as a positive now — horses are a TON of work, plus I have friends and neighbors with horses to quench any thirst I may have for horses.
I joined the FFA Chapter at my high school when I was a freshman and remained a very active member until graduation. It was there that my fire was fueled. We studied breeds and different species of livestock. We raised broiler chickens and watched sows give birth to piglets.
Fast forward about 10 years after graduation, I learned that on my Dad’s side of the family tree, I had a great uncle who was a farmer in Tulare, California after moving there from Mancelona, Michigan. He raised a pair of white mules, Nip and Tuck and raised hundreds of chickens for eggs and meat.
On my mother’s side of the family, my grandma’s parents raised chickens and turkeys for the local grocery store in Mesick, Michigan. I met some long lost family members on my Mom’s side of the family about a year ago, and learned that there was dairy farming in their family. My new cousins raise pigs for show and meat (some VERY beautiful pigs!).
I feel, now that I am a grown woman–an adult with ambition, I can fill that missing piece in my life–I was meant to do this. And while it does not com easy most days (I’ve dropped an entire basket of eggs, lost a whole quart of milk, watched baby chicks die from who knows what, buried goats, and been pooped on) this is my life and I don’t aim to change it in the near future.