Community Philosphy Blog and Library

HOMEGROWN Life: Finding my place in the good food movement

Do you remember your first conscious food choice? I don’t mean chicken or beef lo mein, I’m talking about the first time you considering who your food dollar supports, where and how your food was produced, or what potential implications food additives, chemicals, or genetically-modified ingredients could have on your health? How have your food experiences changed not only your diet, but your views on the food system and the choices you make three meals a day?

I ask because, as an eater and an active member of the food movement, these questions cross my mind often. While I’m now trying to live more HOMEGROWN by growing some of my own food and supplementing with other local goods from farmers’ markets, I can make choices every day that support a sustainable food system and family farmers. Reflecting back on my journey to a greater understanding about good food, farming and fair policies, I think I’ve come a long way! There’s still a long way to go, but I’m enjoying the journey one bite at a time.

I guess the seminal, “a-ha!” food moment for me was when I became a vegetarian at the tender age of 16. It was a livestock farmer who flipped the switch for me at my hometown agricultural fair. On my way to work a shift at the steamed cheeseburger booth, I ran into a farmer in the Cow Palace showing a calf named Caroline. She was a sweet girl with her big ol’ brown eyes and, of course, I felt a spiritual connection to my bovine namesake. After cooing over her for a few minutes, the farmer handed me a pamphlet in beef production. Long story short, one look back at Caroline and another at the ground stuff I was serving led me to swear off steamed cheeseburgers that night and all meat for the next 6 years.

Turning down meat was the first time I can remember making an informed food choice. Growing up I was fortunate to have parents that provided us with local food from our own backyard or from our neighbors. I never really thought about where all that food in the markets came from; I guess not every family has chickens in their yard and a cow down the street! But, actively considering food choices opened a new vein of thought. I had to figure out what I could eat and whether or not I was getting enough nutrients in each meal. Soon, my food consciousness took root and spread to consider the number food miles my avocados traveled, whether or not the veggie burgers I ate were made with genetically-modified soy, if my lettuce was treated with pesticides, and who grew and picked the tomatoes I love so much?

The more I learn about food and the intricacies of the food system, the more empowered I feel to make choices that not only benefit me, but also support family farmers and the environment. My food consciousness is still growing as my tastes change and as I learn and experience. Recently, I was actually convinced by another beef producer to give meat another go…and now I enjoy local meat when I can get it!

By no means is my diet perfect, and still my understanding about the food system is limited. I’ll admit, sometimes my hamster gets more fruits and vegetables than I do, and more often than I’d like, I eat a greasy slice of pizza for dinner. My evolving food consciousness, though, has refined my palette and has solidified my place in the Good Food Movement. And it sure tastes great!

Got any good stories about your own journey in the great, wide food movement? How do you live HOMEGROWN and support your vision of a healthy, fair food system? Share your ideas! Whether you’re growing your own, cooking locally, or supporting farmers in other ways, I’d love to hear more!

I am the Flock-Tender here on HOMEGROWN.org, and the Program Associate at Farm Aid. I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a HOMEGROWN life just out of college.

2 Responses to “HOMEGROWN Life: Finding my place in the good food movement”

  1. When I was in my early 20’s (more years ago than I care to admit) I had already begun the process of slowly changing my diet and food habits in traditional ways: less red meat, more fruits and veggies, less fast food etc.

    But I truly had a pivotal “Aha!” moment when I was eating out at a restaurant in Brattleboro, Vermont. I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous and ordered the stuffed chicken breast, and it tasted like no chicken I’d every had before. It was delicious and even though this is a tautology – it tasted more like chicken than any chicken I’d ever had before. When the waiter came over I excitedly blurted out “What the f&%k is up with this chicken?!?!” The waiter chuckled slightly and explained that not only was it free range, but it was from a farm just up the road and had been “harvested” that very morning. It was the very definition of fresh. Since it was slow at the restaurant, the chef had a few minutes to come out and talk to me and explained that everything on their menu was locally sourced, organic and seasonal.

    While this didn’t make me a vegetarian (though my girlfriend is), it has made me drastically cut down on my meat intake. Meat is no longer a plastic wrapped chunk of mystery on the supermarket shelf, but something that was alive and breathing, thus I want to not only eat it sparingly, but cherish it when I do eat it and strive to make sure that it was humanely processed and butchered.

    This dinner so many years ago also made me realize the possibilities of locally sourced and organic food and changed my orientation toward organic and local food. I now grow as much as I can in my own yard (and can and freeze and dehydrate the surplus), but try to support my local farmers whenever possible and encourage the growth of the local food system.

  2. My “aha” moment was very, very recent and also not really one particular moment at all.

    About the time I got near the end of college and was looking at a life where I was solely responsible for myself, a high school friend graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and my brother entered the same school. All of a sudden, both my Facebook newsfeed and my mom’s kitchen were inundated with culinary student experiments and comments on what they had learned about this or that vegetable and arguments about the best way to make sauces. This was brand new territory, as my food “choices” used to whether I want Ramen or Kraft mac’n'cheese for dinner.

    I’m a student by nature, and love to research things. I started reading about all these new foods I was seeing and taste-testing. There was no single epiphany, but now here I am, planting a garden so that I can have my own heirloom, homegrown vegetables whenever I want.

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