Local meat from your local 4-H? Awesome!

(by Aaron Warner, board member)

Ten years ago I had not even heard of the slow food movement. Neither did I know that the average bite of food traveled around 1500 miles from field to table. When I first read that statistic, I searched and found the same rough number quoted again and again. I can understand this statistic with respect to bananas and oranges, but why should we be buying pork from corporation owned confined feeding operations
(CFOs) in the southern states when we can raise them right here? Enter the local county fair. A hobby farmer friend of mine told me two summers ago that there is nothing like 4H pork. This summer my son raised his first two pigs at my friend’s farm. Let me tell you, they were well taken care of pigs. The pigs were checked twice a day. Those checks, in addition to watering and checking the feed, included a good petting and scratching, hosing down, filling of the mud wallow and a snack of expired bread items , garden and fruit scraps. My mother, when taking my son to check the pigs would pull up a five gallon bucket and sit and give the pigs loving while they did their best to eat her shoelaces. The pigs, named Brick and Borca, had a great summer. Each of them could cool off in the barn shade in front of a fan or enjoy the sun outside. Believe me; their lives were much better than the pigs in a CFO. Brick was auctioned off while Borca was taken to be processed into our favorite choice of cuts last Wednesday. I can almost guarantee it will be the best pulled pork and polish sausage we’ve ever had.

About now, you might be asking yourself why I’m writing this. Simple, the average consumer can choose to purchase local meat, while also supporting local 4Hers. All you have to do is to go to the 4H auction at the end of the fair in July and bid. This is truly a win-win situation. You get a bunch of the best meat you’ll ever have and without the hassle of raising the animal yourself. Many 4H members use the money from the livestock auction for college money or for seed money for next year’s animal. If a 280 pound pig is too much meat, the processor will divide it between two families. You could also choose to donate a portion to a food pantry. Quality protein is always one of the more difficult items to procure.

Cooking Skills and Food Insecurity

I’ve been excited to garden in my space this summer at the ISU Community Garden despite the extreme drought and hot, hot, hot conditions. The amount of produce has been greatly diminished in these conditions but has given us a bounty to enjoy. It is a challenge to work with that bounty, both to prepare and to preserve. It takes time and skills, some of which I’ve had to learn like canning. My mom canned amazing amounts of food every year but I wasn’t “present” enough in the process to fully remember it so the internet was my guide. And now I have lovely marinara and salsa lined up on shelves in my basement ready to provide that boost of summer when the cold winter winds blow.

My sister lives on a farm in southern Clay County and grew zucchini from the plants I started from seed. She doesn’t have a lot of experience with zucchini, however, and soon had fruits the size of baseball bats and no clue what to do with them. So I offered to take them to the Catholic Charities Foodbank and did. Some 45 pounds of zucchini. And some time later, I had a discussion with folks involved in the food distribution to the poor who lamented that fresh produce is often not the first choice when clients are selecting food from their shelves and often goes to waste. Seems a big problem is the lack of food preparation skills among many folks. I certainly understand that. Time, convenience, and the fact that the cheapest foods are generally prepared or fast foods has created a whole generation of folks who just don’t know what to do with a zucchini. Or a green bean. Or 4 pounds of tomatoes.

Then came news of a couple of soup kitchens in the area closing due to a lack of staff and/or volunteers.

And then I learned that people receiving Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) sometimes have a difficult time finding suitable work to fulfill the work requirement to receive aid and I thought: is there a way to connect these dots? What if we could have knowledgeable cooks in our soup kitchens teaching TANF recipients how to cook using produce from our food banks and giving gardens to feed the needy in soup kitchens? Hmmm. I’d be delighted to talk with anyone who has thoughts on this.

Why is this important to Terre Foods? Well, having a community who knows how to prepare and preserve nature’s bounty is essential to its long-term survival and the ability of the local food economy to grow and prosper. Let’s get reconnected to our food!