the local difference
Given my near-worship of all things agricultural, it’s entirely possible that I was born into the wrong century. Or perhaps I just read too much Little House on the Prairie as a child.
For weeks I looked forward to our local dairy’s annual open barn, an opportunity to tour the facilities, meet the cows, and eat ice cream. This delightfully rural event had been noted on my calendar for over a month, and I’d mentioned it dozens of times to friends and family members. Early last week I began a mental cow countdown and by Friday evening I was practically bursting with anticipation. “Guess what tomorrow is,” I eagerly prompted Chris. But after three lame guesses (one of which he actually wasted on “Saturday”) it became clear that he’d forgotten all about the cows and he was therefore forced to endure yet another round of my open barn enthusiasm.
Chris looked somewhat crestfallen. “I thought you said I didn’t have to go,” he sighed. Which I did, but it hadn’t occurred to me that he might not want to go. I mean helloooooo? cows. “You can see cows anywhere,” Chris pointed out. “True, but these cows make our milk,” I countered.
Which, of course, is the appeal of the locavore movement. I mean, sure, local food tastes about a billion times better and you significantly reduce your carbon footprint and support your local economy by eating it, but for me the most compelling reason to eat locally is the connection forged between producer and consumer.
After a summer filled with twice-weekly visits to the farmers market, I’ve gotten to know the farmers whose stands I patronize most frequently. I’ve chatted with them about the flavors and varieties of what they grow and about their growing practices themselves. We’ve exchanged suggestions for preparing or freezing different sorts of produce and they’ve offered me tips to keep deer out of my garden (although “get a shotgun” is advice I’m not likely to follow). My favorite farmer is a big fan of the nasturtium blossom pasta recipe I shared with him, and I rarely leave his stand without a free sample of something I simply must try. All of this leaves me far more informed and connected than any trip to the grocery could.
Local eating, then, is mindful eating. In the case of the cows, milk becomes not just a jug of white something you transport from the grocery’s cooler to your breakfast table, but a nourishing substance extracted with care from a large and gentle animal. Buying milk from a dairy we’ve actually visited (because to be fair, Chris did go last year) assures us that the cows are well-cared for — an assurance I suspect most people would demand if they stopped to think about it, and supporting this dairy rather than some unknown corporate behemoth ensures the availability of humanely-produced milk in our area.
Plus the cows are really cute. And you get to pet them and feed them and watch them being milked, and then you get to eat ice cream made from the milk of those very same cows, and you can tromp through the barns and around the fields talking to the cows and wishing that your boyfriend would let you get one, and if you are really really lucky one of those cows might like you enough to lick you.
Try all that with your lame-ass grocery store milk.