My alpaca-owning, conference-attending friend is what Malcolm Gladwell would call a Connector. For her, the conference was a series of conversations with interesting people. She missed a few things over the course of the weekend, because what she focuses on is talking to people. I'm not that way, but benefitted anyway, because near the end of the conference she caught up/met some people who live fairly near to me. What I learned from them will likely change the course of my next year (and future years).
Let me step back a moment. At the end of the year last year, I wrote that I wanted to change how I eat to include more local, sustainably raised foods. I mostly meant meat, eggs and dairy. Right around that time I asked my butcher if their meat is local meat. He said, "No. Our meat is good meat. The only meat you find around here are old dairy cows, and who wants to eat that?" Like an idiot, I sortof believed him and let it drop.
I'd also written about my difficulties finding raw milk to make cheese. I finally found a place an hour south of me and made some great, great cheese. I still haven't found goat milk.
Eggs, I thought would be the least part of the story. There is an Agway on my commute, where I can buy eggs for $2.75 a dozen. That, plus my plan to get a few chickens this year should take care of the egg situation.
What's really happening though, is I'm doing the same thing I've always done (at least for the last year). I'm going to a grocery store near work on my lunch hour and buying whatever is cheap. Eggs, meat, the works. I can't get past how convenient it is and how well it fits into my life, compared to the high-quality stuff.
Here's what brought this to the forefront. There was an Amish family at the conference selling their wares, raw apple cider (yessss), cheeses, eggs, and other prepared goods. When I found out how much they're selling the eggs for ($5/dozen), I decided against buying their eggs. They are probably really good eggs! But I chose to stay with the cheap grocery store eggs, this time.
The choice I have to choose, is whether to pay more money and spend more time getting good, local fare, or continue the grocery store habit. Honestly, it depends on how important this is to me. Normally this sort of thing is a time/money tradeoff (you spend more money to save time). This is exactly the opposite (I'd be spending more time to spend more money to get better food). A little hard to swallow, given all the other things I want to do in my negligible free time.
This is where the two ladies I met yesterday come in. They live a little east of me and north, which is not ever on my path around this little planet. I go west. What they told me though, makes a big difference. What they said is that if I continue past the Agway, I'll get to a beef farm that has an honor system freezer in his breezeway. And on the same road is a dairy that sells raw milk for $6 a gallon. Score!! I can visualize doing this! Maybe not all the time, but enough to move the quality of the food I eat up. I do think I can do it enough to make a habit.
We also talked about chickens and coops and bees, and a bunch of other things. I had my notebook and pen out and took copious notes - more than some of the actual workshops! It's going to take a while to work through all their recommendations, but I know where to find them again, at the Bennington farmers market or the Hoosick Falls farmer's market. I'm in the inevitable emotional slump after such a good weekend (and it being Monday), but thinking about the local things I learned goes a long way towards making it all better.
Beautiful Day, Beautiful Pond
6 hours ago