Friday, November 26, 2010

City boy says: Let food freedom ring!

Today, I'm thinking about food.

No surprise. Yesterday was our annual eating extravaganza. I enjoyed Thanksgiving -- always do -- although I didn't do much beside cook two pies and take them to our friends' house where the rest of the goodies resided.

I didn't ask any annoying foodie questions, such as "were these sweet potatoes raised within 100 miles of Cheyenne?" That's the problem with foodies -- always asking annoying questions while we're trying to eat.

I ate some root crops: sweet potatoes, potatoes and onions. I ate wheat: dinner rolls, gravy and stuffing. I ate nuts: pecan topping on the mashed sweet potatoes. I ate turkey, of course, and cranberries. Green beans from the usual casserole. I ate apples and pumpkin in the pies. Olives.

Most of this could have been grown or raised in the general vicinity. Wyoming is known more for cattle and sheep than for its turkey ranching. But you could do it on a small scale. If not, maybe it's time to switch our local Thanksgivings to beef or lamb or elk or goose. You can get those locally. Alas, turkey is traditional and usually comes from big turkey farms located far away.

According to an article by Keith Goetzman in Utne Reader, more than 50 percent of Thanksgiving turkeys come from the Willmar Poultry Farm in Willmar, Minn. The Humane Society recently screened a video filmed secretly at the plant. Not a pretty picture. If you have the stomach for it, you can see it at

Goetzman also recounts how meat-eaters and vegetarians square off across the Turkey Day table. He ends his piece by making a case for squash lasagna as a holiday main course.

Sounds good. My 17-year-old daughter, the vegetarian, would like it. So would I. But, alas, my daughter also likes the traditions of the day which include the succulent odors of cooking turkey. Good smells make good memories. And let's face it -- vegetarians have plenty of choices on the traditional table. Turkey and gravy are the only items that they can't eat. Dressing isn't stuffed into the bird any more and, if you don't add giblets to it, it's O.K. for vegetarians.

I strive to eat locally produced foods. My garden provides some during the warm season. It probably could provide more, according to the University of Wyoming Extension Service. And not by expanding my acreage. I could get additional growing time by taking advantage of my yard's microclimates. I also could invest in a small high tunnel or a small greenhouse. These people know their biz. They even have a magazine called Barnyards & Backyards which features farm/ranch/garden tips and interesting articles. You can subscribe by going to

A couple more food-related items. For one, I think it's time to invest in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). We now have a half-dozen farms within 100 miles which offer CSAs. I've been putting off joining because I thought I could grow all of my own but that isn't possible. I was checking out the web page for Meadow Maid Foods in Yoder, which is in Goshen County. The Ridenour family grows natural veggies and raises grass-fed beef. I've bought veggies and beef at the farmer's market and all of it was great. Meadow Maid has also leaped on the agri-tourism bandwagon, with tours of the property and workshops. Some places, such as Grant Farms in Wellington, Colo., bring their CSA customers in to help plant and weed and harvest. Agri-tourism could join the ranks of ranches offering hands-on experiences in trail drives and branding. This trend could eventually be huge in rural Wyoming.

And then there's Wyoming Food Freedom. In its proposed legislation, terms such as agri-tourism and farmers' markets come up often. WFF proposes to do away with onerous state and federal regulations that prevents "informed consumers" buying directly from "trusted producers." I support this. In fact, I find it a place where libertarians and liberals can meet without yelling and screaming. WFF realizes that Big Ag products are making us sick. I want to buy more products from local farmers and ranchers. I want to spend less time at the grocery store. I'm not sure about this whole raw milk thing. That seems to be a big issue -- buying unpasteurized milk directly from small dairies. Some of the rhetoric around this issue harkens back to "poisoning of our precious bodily fluids" days. But there may be some truth in what the raw-milkers say.

Our family bought raw goat's milk from a local producer for years. It was great, but I don't drink much milk so, when our milk-consuming son moved away, we stopped getting it. But there are many who swear by the stuff. We also know that pathogens can breed in milk if it's not handled correctly.

Meanwhile, I'm going to support Rep. Sue Wallis and WFF. On its web site, WFF contends that freeing up food commerce can add a billion dollars worth of stimulation to the state's ag economy. It would really beef up rural areas hit hard in the past few decades. It also might regenerate family farms, which are disappearing fast.

At yesterday's dinner, a man my age -- a local pharmacist -- spoke about the small family farm he grew up in in Scotts Bluff County, Nebraska, which is just across the border from Goshen County, Wyoming. The family ran the farm until it grew too expensive. His parents both got jobs in town. They sold some of the land to the railroad. They leased out the rest. Pretty soon they weren't farming any more. He said that he loves the way he grew up but that it's almost impossible to do so now.

It should be possible. So says this city boy.


Michael said...

This is a good site for a balanced look at the science surrounding milk.

Michael Shay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Shay said...

Thanks. I will look it up.

Ellen said...

I'm on Sue's team in the fight for food rights, and built the Wyoming Food Freedom website to support our endeavor. I just wanted to say thanks for your support. It's nice to know there are other like minded people in Cheyenne.

Ellen said...

PS here's a site that discusses the benefits and safety of raw milk:

Sue said...

I was raised not only on a Beef farm but we also grew sweet corn, peas, beans & potatoes commercially. We had a huge home garden, raised chickens, pigs, goats so we were pretty self sufficient but we too could no longer survive in this world. I do miss the good old days but I am not a strict "buy locally" advocate. If in season and readily available I will buy from local sources only but if I want strawberries in December I won't be getting them around here soooo either do without or buy truck/shipped in product. I buy....