Sunday, October 16, 2011
Everyone Needs Safe Food!
44° here on the mountain with a 6 mph wind that offers up gusts with much greater speeds. At 5:15 AM it's darker than a pocket and I can hear rain on the standing seam roof. Karl the Wonder Dog is laying on the rug in front of the soap stone wood stove, still warm from last night's fire. He snores loud snores for his size and occasionally does dog mumbles during obvious dog dreams.
Today is Blog Action Day, a world wide event that brings together comments from around the world about a single subject. I try to participate but haven't made it every year. This year's topic is food and there probably could not be a more important consideration after the disasters that have occurred not just in Vermont but world wide this year.
Vermont is an agrarian state and it has been one since the early 1700s when new villages formed and farms sprang up in river valleys and on mountain tops. By the end of World War II tiny Vermont had over +10,000 dairy farms, cows were still hand milked and milk was shipped to processing plants in 40 quart milk cans. Unpasteurized milk was the norm and rural neighbors took their jugs every couple days to farms for a fresh supply and often added a couple dozen eggs or a couple pounds of homemade butter to the journey back home. Fast forward to 2011 and there are well under 1000 dairy farms in Vermont, many well automated, some organic, most not, some as small as a dozen cows, some exceeding 400 milkers. Things have changed!
Along with the dairies are CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture opportunities at their finest. These are growers and producers who offer vegetables, fruits, flowers, cheeses, meats, trout....anything you can grow, raise, produce or preserve offered up for an annual price over the summer season or more recently almost year round. In Vermont there is an extensive and growing number of CSAs but their popularity has now reached out to even the largest cities. Vermonter growers now travel weekly to places such as New York City and city folks have organized CSAs, farmers markets and traveling markets that stop at apartment complexes and senior housing facilities to extend the reach of good food for everyone.
Discussions about food have broadened of late and concern for safe food is real big. It should be. Although family dairy farms continue to diminish and large, bazillion cow farms replace them, we still have to be vigilant about the food we offer up for sale. Bigger doesn't always mean better. Up the river from my village of Marshfield is Cabot, Vermont, the home of Cabot Creamery. This is a milk cooperative that buys dairy farmers milk at a good price and turns out a variety of award winning cheeses that make cheese lovers smile. But Cabot Creamery is only one of many cheese producers in Vermont. In fact cheese is so big in Vermont that the Vermont Cheese Council has prepared a marketing scheme named The Vermont Cheese Trail to help residents and visitors learn about all the great cheeses we produce in Vermont.
But CSAs, great farmers and special cheeses is only part of Vermont and safe food is dear to Vermonters. Also in Cabot is a young writer named Ben Hewitt. Ben is one of those off the grid kind of guys, a family man who farms about 40 acres where dairy, beef, pork, lamb, vegetables and berries prevail. Ben's first book, The Town That Food Saved told about Hardwick, Vermont and how food and people became so important to each other in a struggling Vermont town that was stepping boldly into the future. I liked the book a lot and you will too but perhaps his latest book is spot on to my title Everyone Needs Safe Food!
Making Supper Safe: One Man's Quest To Learn The Truth About Food Safety
is Ben's second book. It informs and scares at the same time. It's not a Halloween scary book it's a "do things right or get sick or die" kind of book. It contains tales, research, and discussions that are so accurate that a few times I stopped reading and went to the kitchen and rewashed fruit and vegetables from the grocery store. It's a book to read and it offers some clear thinking about some things that need to change.
Here in Vermont we are a small state of 630,000 people. But we love our farms and farmers and we love buying locally produced food. The food needs to be safe and we are on track here. No matter where you live or how you eat, remember that everyone needs safe food and part of that experience is knowing where your food comes from and how to handle it. Those might be topics you have overlooked but try reading Making Supper Safe and I'll bet you sees things differently.
Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where a couple stars still twinkle outside my office window. Canada geese compare breakfast notes and talk loudly on the pond, waiting patiently for first light so they can become airborne and continue their journey south. I'm off to the kitchen to make an apple cake for breakfast...with local apples, butter, milk, eggs...most everything local but the cinnamon and nutmeg. Be safe, eat safe, everyone needs safe food!
The Vermont Gardener
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