It’s pretty accurate to say I’m a lifelong farmer. I grew up on a family farm the first eighteen years of my life. As regular readers know, I’ve been dairy farming with my husband since we got married in 2009. Four years of college in the Twin Cities was the farthest I got from the country.
Over the years on this blog I’ve written about food choice, food safety, and the pride farmers have in the food we grow. I’ve written from the perspective of a farmer, a runner, and an eater.
Since the birth of my son last year I’ve embraced my newest and most loved title. Mom. I have also realized choosing food from the perspective of a parent really is different. At nine months old Speedy loves chewing on everything from cooked carrots and Cheerios to a strip of steak. I want healthy, nourishing food for his little body, and I care more about the safety and quality of his food than I do my own.
I thought, perhaps, some of you would be curious if becoming a mom drastically changes how I choose and talk about food. In a word, the answer is “No.” I haven’t changed my food perspective too much, but I do think now is a good time to reinforce some of my core values – this time as a mom.
1) I still believe in choice. Whether you shop at Target, the farmers market, or your corner grocery, I hope you have access to safe, affordable food. I continue to be grateful for the abundance and variety of America’s food supply.
2) I still dislike fear in food marketing. I feel sad when our country’s whirlwind of food labels causes confusion, stress, and even fear. People don’t need that when they are simply trying to shop for their families. I bristle when I see “GMO-free” on a bag of broccoli because broccoli grown with GMO technology is not available in any grocery store. Anywhere. I also happen to believe GMOs have some good qualities. I did a little internet search for a list of which crops are actually genetically modified, and it was harder to find a reputable link than I expected. This list on GMO answers is a good place to start.
GMOs are not the answer to everything. I’m not naive enough to believe they are always the best solution, and I know world hunger is more a problem of food distribution than food supply. However… If you care about world hunger, if you care about affordable food, if you care about the environment and sustainable farming – then I think you have to believe GMOs are important to explore as a piece of the solution on these issues. -Me, August 2011. I still feel this way today.
3) I am still on a mission to clear up misinformation about antibiotics. I feel uncomfortable with the label “antibiotic-free.” Why? Because any animal treated with antibiotics can’t be slaughtered for meat during a specifically defined withdrawal time. This time ensures all antibiotic residue has cleared from an animal’s body before they can be used for food. Technically, all food available for human consumption in the U.S. is antibiotic-free, even if an animal needed antibiotics at some point.
Furthermore, since becoming a mom I remain convinced modern medicine is important for both people and animals. We provide many daily things on our farm, like fresh bedding and feed and clean water, to keep our cattle healthy. Sometimes an animal still gets sick. If a calf shows signs of pneumonia or a cow develops an infection I think it’s wrong to deny them the treatment they need. I know we can work with our veterinarian to be responsible about animal health because I see this relationship in action.
4) I still like raising the food I can, but I’m thankful for the grocery store. And takeout pizza. Over the years my husband and I have raised our own chickens and grown our own cabbage to make sauerkraut. We eat our own beef (and our own version if JR is successful during deer hunting). We normally have a good-sized garden and freeze lots of veggies for winter, but this summer with a brand new baby we didn’t plant anything of our own. Different seasons of life mean we can’t always do everything. Being at peace with that reality is important to me.
Speedy eats baby purées occasionally, but usually he’s getting peices of whatever vegetable or meat or concoction we’re eating at the time. He’s learning to handle and chew his food well, and we’re doing our best to start him on a path to nutritious eating. As he grows, that path will include talk about where food comes from and an appreciation for the land and animals behind it. All food, no matter what labels appear on it, starts with the basics of soil and the plants and animals that thrive on it.