The other day, I was cleaning out my freezer and something magical happened. Not only did I get a nice, organized freezer, but I realized what it really means to eat locally.
When you eat locally, you know things about your food that people who shop at the grocery store do not.
On the labels of nearly every package of meat in my freezer was the name of someone I know….whose farm I've actually been to.
I know that those incredibly delicious pork chops in my freezer came from an American Guinea Hog, a breed that is prized for its moderate size, friendly temperament, and mad foraging skills. I know that during its lifetime, that hog didn't go a single day without a scratch between the ears and a kind word. The hog had a large area under the trees to snuffle around and do his hog thing all day long with his hog friends. The hog was kindly treated and humanely dispatched, and I saw the entire litter of them numerous times when I went over to the farmer's house to pick up excess tomatoes.
And the beef in my freezer? Here's what I know about that. Those cows lived a life of open ranges with all the grass they could chomp down in a day. They didn't stand in piles of their own excrement, suffering for their entire existence. The herd that our beef came from was mostly Herefords, and I've chatted many times with the farmer.
I have chicken from a lady who knows the true meaning of free range. Her farmyard is studded with white, plump, contented birds pecking away at unseen bugs all day long. Our freezer also contains some lamb and some rabbits, all of which were well-treated, fed their natural diets, and allowed the freedom to enjoy the sunshine, nibble on the grass, and romp around.
And the jars of fruits and vegetables lining my shelves?
I went out for 3 days in a row with my daughter, early in the morning before the sun was too hot to pick the blueberries that we then cleaned and made jam and syrup from. The farm was so close we walked there with our cotton bags. Incidentally, I just picked up a big 2-gallon bucket of honey from hives that are right across the road from the blueberry patch.
I watched the progress just a mile from my house, as the peach trees bloomed white in the spring, then the little green fruits appeared. I was excited when I drove past one day and saw men with ladders against the trees because I knew I could soon get some of the very first peaches of the year. I bought and preserved so many peaches I thought we couldn't possibly eat them all, but here we are, down to one last jar of jam and two jars of slices.
We picked blackberries when we found a lush patch during a walk in the woods. I made juice from wild grapes found on the same forest trail. Then the wildfires began here in our area, and there was an abundance of bear poop, so we left the rest of the berries for the hungry, displaced animals.
I supplemented my own garden tomatoes with the tomatoes of 3 other small farms. I traded homemade marinara sauce for tomatoes with one of them. I canned more than 100 pounds of tomatoes this year, into juice, purees, marinara sauce, and ketchup. Right about now, I'm wishing I'd canned 200 pounds because the tomato product supply has dwindled too quickly.
When I picked up my apples from the local, no-spray orchard, we talked at length about making apple cider vinegar, and the orchard owner helped me troubleshoot my first batch that wasn't quite right.