No rBGH/BST for me!
I wouldn’t say that I’m not a spontaneous person but when making major life changes especially ones that are going to impact the people that I love, I do my research. Matter of fact, I love a little research every now and then. Searching the internet for hours until I find out everything I could ever what to know about a subject, or sitting at my favorite table in the local library surrounded by stacks of books, newspapers, and magazines. When I made the decision to change my family over to more a sustainable food lifestyle, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. For one thing I live in New Jersey and our peak months for fresh produce are May through October. If I don’t freeze it or can it I knew I would be out of luck come the cold weather months. The other major obstacle that I saw was our family budget, we are very much a working class family, and living sustain-ably definitely didn’t sound like it would be cheap but I also believed that the benefits would outweigh the costs and if I had to cut back on other things like premium cable channels (I’m a bit of a movie buff) or monthly book purchases (did I mention that I’m a bookworm too) in order to purchase local organic milk than by all means that’s what I would do.
It really did start with milk. While I was knee deep in research, trying to figure out the easiest way to make the transition I stumbled upon an article about artificial growth hormones in milk and its connection to early puberty in little girls. My oldest daughter was two, and it had been a year since she left the world of breast milk/formula to one of Elsie the cow. Why the fact that dairy cows were being treated with growth hormones in order to increase production didn’t faze me until that point I’ll never know, but let’s just say that when you have children there are certain things that make you sit up and take notice. The very next day I poured the supermarket brand milk down the drain and purchased a half-gallon of a nationally known organic brand, just until I could find a local supplier. The cost really did take me back a bit but I just kept telling myself that I didn’t want to be shopping for training bras with a five year old, and besides I live 45 minutes south of Philadelphia and a mere hour away from a major dairy farm (less than 100 miles) so surely finding local, organic milk shouldn’t be a problem…*
Now that I had the milk situation under control, with butter and cheese sure to follow next I had the whole fresh, seasonal, local produce issue to deal with. For years my grandfather had maintained a huge garden with everything from corn to cauliflower but he found himself planting less as he got older and his crops also haven’t done as well as in years past which had my grandmother being a little stingier than usual with grandpops bounty. I was already growing fresh herbs in window boxes on my own front porch but it was too late in the season for my husband to till up a spot in our backyard for me. So I headed to the next best thing, the farmers markets.
I found two markets nearby, one a mere 15 minutes away and one a half hour away. I opted for the one that was a half hour away. The closer market was smack in the middle of a beach town catering to tourists, and having to fight the traffic and inconsiderate drivers just wasn’t worth it. So the following Saturday I snatched up my husband and off we went, I simply told him that we were going to Atlantic City, nothing else. I swear to you I saw a bubble appear over my husband’s head with a snapshot of him sitting at the craps table with a cigar in hand. When we arrived I pulled into a spot on the side street adjacent to the market, my husband looked at me as if to say “What the h*%# is going on?” I was giddy with excitement I couldn’t wait to see it.
When I got out of the car my face fell, there were only four tables with a small crowd milling about. I knew it would be nothing compared to Union Square but I was certainly expecting more. I was perfectly content with the small selection and the prices (nearly 40% less than what the supermarkets charged), but just sad that this little gem of a market wasn’t seeing a larger crowd. I spoke with one farmer briefly who told me that although the city government was very supportive and happy to have the market in town the residents didn’t frequent it and it was hard getting other farmers to make the treak down to the area when they wouldn’t generate enough sales to cover the cost of gas. I vowed that I would return the following weekend then I looked around for my husband who I thought had either snuck off to the casino or was quietly sitting the car. Instead he was holding a bushel of jersey peaches, and flashing a mega-watt smile at some young blond wearing a low cut tank top. Looking like he had a new lease on life my husband brought the peaches over to me, “You think you can do something with all of these” he asked, “Sure, I think I can handle it”…looks like I have a convert on my hands.
Listed Below is just a few of the books I read while researching sustainable food lifestyles:
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan
- The $64 Tomato – William Alexander
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver
- Food Politics – Marion Nestle
- What to Eat – Marion Nestle
*Since changing our dairy purchasing habits, my oldest daughter was also diagnosed with having pervasive developmental disorder which falls underneath of the Autism spectrum. There are many doctors who believe that diet plays a huge part in treating children with these disorders. Yet another reason for me to be even more concerned about where our food comes from.
Next time – Life beyond organic milk, re-usable shopping bags, and my compost pile.
Related: My Journey to a More Sustainable Food Lifestyle
Heather Jones is a wife, mother, freelance food writer, and graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She has worked for Gourmet Magazine, TV Personality Katie Brown, and the New York based Indian-fusion restaurant Tabla. Heather resides in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters. She is a strong supporter of the Sustainable Food Movement and believes that education is the key to making a difference.