For my daughter’s 12th birthday we organized a fun pajama party with four of her best girl friends. One of the girls was a friend from school that we didn’t see very often. I’ll call her Susan. Since we didn’t know them very well, Susan’s parents came to do the parental check of our family and home.
As older parents sometimes can be, Susan’s mom and dad were a little over protective. To help them feel more comfortable I offered to show them around the research center where we live. We live in a research center dedicated to finding the fastest, easiest, and most fun ways for individuals to grow food. My family and I grow a significant part of our diet here.
Our main purpose is to develop and test methods for backyard food production.
My daughter’s friend Susan was much larger than my daughter in both height and girth. Her parents were also carrying a lot of extra pounds. From their body size, skin, and quality of their flesh, it was easy to see they ate mostly conventional food.
It just tears me up to see parents feeding their children food that comes from the grocery stores, or worse yet, from fast food places. Especially the really young children. How are their little bodies ever going to be healthy to grow properly?
Did you know that second the leading cause of death among children is Leukemia (a form of cancer)? Kids who eat just 3 hotdogs per week have a nine times greater probability of getting Leukemia.
Most people just don’t realize how bad it is, or I am sure they wouldn’t feed it to the kids. The CDC fully expects that one third of all children born in the last decade will have juvenile diabetes. They are starting to screen 6th graders for heart disease. Your kids are not expected to live as long as you. And the school lunch programs serve probably some of the worst food on the planet.
I usually don’t say anything to people, because where do you begin? The entire food supply is essentially toxic.
The good news is there is a lot that can be done. But for Susan’s family to truly make a difference they have to make some changes to their lifestyle. But they could do it.
They’ll start spending some quality time outdoors working together. They’ll begin to shift where they get their needs met – learning to work directly with the Earth to get all or most of what they need. This way of living is different than working for money to get what you need from supermarkets or drugstores.
Making these changes will inevitably incur some failures while they learn new skills. How do I begin to tell people that? But in the way back of my conscience I heard the quiet mantra that get’s me out of bed each morning….
“Homegrown food on every table”.
It means the delightful tastes of fresh, healthy food at dinner tables. Food that is rich in nutrition with bright beautiful colors and amazing tastes. It means awakening with sheer delight every morning with a body that move freely with agility and strength. It means your friends who haven’t seen you in years say “What are you doing to stay so young?”.
This is such an incredibly healing experience for those who undergo the journey. So I decided I would try to broach the subject of food with these two parents. This was going to be a tough sell.
They looked uncomfortable just being outside. They did not look at all like they would want to garden. And the mom was telling me a story about how she was traumatized by a rooster when she was a young girl.
So where to begin?
I have a numerous experimental gardens scattered around. We just installed an aquaponics system to test. I work a lot with edible landscaping. There is a food forest and a hugelkultur garden. There are several experimental rabbit production systems and a flock of geese for increasing soil fertility.
The closest project was a flock of pastured chickens we are growing. We grow about 52 chickens in a short four-month project which gives our family one chicken per week for the entire year. My family and I do this meat chicken project once a year to fill up the freezer.
I figured the chicken project was a good one to show Susan’s parents. I pointed out the chickens and mentioned, “Did you know that Tyson Foods is the world’s largest producer of chicken?”
They didn’t know that of course. It was my opening and I pushed on. “Yes, it’s a tough business with a very thin profit margin of only about three percent”.
The husband and wife looked at each other wondering where this conversation was going. I continued, “in the chicken business the most important thing is the weight of the birds – since they sell by the pound, the heavier the birds, the more money that can be made.
A common practice in large chicken operations is to add a tiny amount of arsenic to the chickens feed. It’s not enough to kill the chickens. But it gets into the chickens bodies and causes the cells of the chickens to swell and retain water – and voilà! The chickens weigh more.
A little bit of arsenic helps cut down on the cost of feed, and turns out to be a very profitable thing to do. But when you eat that chicken meat, you get the arsenic in your cells. And then your cells swell and retain water. And you are thinking you are eating healthy because you choose chicken, right?
By eating that chicken you will never be able to lose weight,” I finished. The two parents stood there a long moment, thinking. The husband says slowly, “they also feed animals growth hormones to get them fatter and bigger more quickly and we are eating that too. And they give them antibiotics… ”
We stand for a few more moments enjoying the sight of the young birds chasing crickets or pecking about. Some chickens were at the feeders or waterers. And one young bird was taking a dust bath over an old gopher hole.
Then the wife says, “those big commercial operators raise their chickens in those horrible factories.” There was a bit more silence.
“It takes us about 15 to 30 minutes per day to take care of the chicks,” I explain to them. “They will grow to a good weight for harvesting in about 3 months. We spend about two or three hours on a Saturday morning processing them. And it takes about three Saturdays to do them all.”
But then our freezer is full of organic free-range chicken we will eat for an entire year. You need about a quarter acre to raise a flock like this. But not all our systems require this much room. “Come on and I’ll show you more,” I offer.
The two of them were looking at each other. The husband cocked his head and raised an eyebrow towards his wife. She shook her head with a big smile and turned to me.
The enthusiasm was infectious.
“We have a really big backyard,” she says excitedly and we start walking through the rest of the research center talking about what they could do to get started growing some of their own food.
If you would also like to have a personal tour, I have made a video set that will show you many of the simple systems we have developed for producing, beautiful, healthy, clean food. If you want to grow your own groceries, or even if you aren’t sure that you want to grow anything, but you are curious to see what is involved, it’s an excellent introduction.
Get started on home-growing your food now and you may never have to eat that chicken.
Learn more about Marjory Wildcraft and how to grow your own groceries at www.GrowYourOwnGroceries.com