Sunday, September 29, 2013

Knowing Our Food

My husband and I --- city-dwellers --- own a cow.  
Okay, these are Irish cows we met in July.  But aren't they pretty?
Because the sale of raw milk is illegal in Virginia, we bought a share in a local farmer's herd.  We pay for boarding and milking (instead of for the milk itself which is ours by right of owning the cow), along with other families who own herd shares.  This week we learned that our cow, Buttercream, was being a little fussy.  Our farmer's supplier of organic alfalfa (which they give the cow during milking) had changed the packaging a little, making the alfalfa pellets harder than usual.  In protest, Buttercream stubbornly decided to hold back her milk in one quarter.
Look at the cream content in last week's milk!  (Hint: look at the very bottom of the jar.)  This is a half gallon.
 Poor girl, she developed mastitis in that quarter!  This meant our farmer had to slow milk production to treat her for a weekend.
Now I've had mastitis before, and believe me I feel for Buttercream --- even if she did bring it on herself.  So we have been praying for her to recover quickly in our family prayers.  We also want her to recover because we need her raw milk (and yoghurt and butter)!  Without it, we have learned from experience, we are much more susceptible to whatever is "going around."

My boy helping himself (and his bib) to some creamy raw milk.
This experience has been revealing to me!  Knowing Buttercream, knowing her caretakers, has placed us in a position where we can:
  • Be in touch with where our food is coming from --- personally in touch
  • Help out where we can (in this case through prayer)
  • Experience vulnerability when our food source is threatened, the way almost all of our ancestors have throughout time, and the way many others throughout the world do today.  This is a natural part of the human experience.
 We started drinking raw milk and seeking out other local, truly natural foods for health and environmental reasons.  But I didn't foresee many of the other benefits!  I'll list a few here:
  • As I said above, we know exactly what is going on in the production of our food.  I know the details of how Buttercream is being treated for her mastitis, and how her caretakers treat her in general.  She is well-loved, and that makes me feel good about paying for her (dreamy creamy) milk.  I for the labor of boarding and milking her.
  • We know the farmers who raise our meat and eggs as well.  Those whose farms I haven't visited, I will visit soon.  Knowing these farmers, and having met many of these animals, I feel more thankful for the meat placed on our table.  When we bless meals containing meat, I thank the Lord for the animal who gave its life, and feel genuine gratitude in my heart.  Our food is now personal.
  • We also are learning many new things by getting local, humanely raised food.  I am learning when certain fruits and vegetables are in season --- things I didn't always know growing up because we can always get anything year round from the supermarket.
  • I am also learning that things naturally taste different in different seasons.  For instance, Buttercream's milk was sweeter in August than it is now, since she is eating fall grass which has a more bitter taste.  (Cam has a hard time getting this autumn milk down, because of the bitterness).  Did you know milk and its derivatives will likely taste different depending on the season?  Real orange juice too.
Last week's farmers' market yield, all organic: mixed greens, zucchini, bell peppers, green beans, white turnips, pastured eggs, grass-fed beef and liver
I love what I am learning as I understand, and as I am personally acquainted with, the sources of our food.  I love the feeling of solidarity with the farmers who work so hard to produce healthy foods sustainably and with integrity.  I love our new connection to the earth's cycles.  Good health and happiness are the promises of full, rich nutrition.  But knowledge, gratitude, and perhaps a little wisdom, come with it as well.


  1. I love that! Thanks for sharing. What an ideal set up, when you're able to know the farmer, and visit the farm!

  2. Meredith, I confess, I am jealous. :) Jersey cow milk is delectable. Thing is such a great post about gratitude. We are not nearly grateful enough for the things we have.