Monday, July 16, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

The more I read about the watering down of organic standards, the more I’ve been rethinking my food choices. It seems that most organic food is being produced by huge corporate farms and megacorporations. Those are not the industries I want to support with my food dollars. In the last year, I’ve been buying as much as possible from local farmers who may not be certified organic but who grow their crops using organic and sustainable methods. I feel I’m getting a better quality food and supporting my own community – and hopefully contributing less to global warming since my food doesn’t have to travel miles to get to me.

So when I heard Barbara Kingsolver (one of my favorite authors) had a new book out and it was about eating locally, I knew I had to read it. And it did not disappoint.

Kingsolver and her family left their Arizona home to move to a farm in southern Appalachia. They no longer wanted to live in a state where virtually all the food and water was trucked in from somewhere else. They chose Virginia because (among other reasons) they wanted to live in a place that could feed them. A place “where rain falls, crops grow, and drinking water bubbles right up out of the ground.”

After nearly a year of settling in, fixing up the house, and planting their gardens, they embarked on their one-year mission to eat only food they grew themselves or what was raised in their own neighborhood. Kingsolver takes us through the work of raising a garden that would feed them throughout the year. We see the work involved in weeding and caring for the plants, harvesting, and preserving them. This book is a great lesson on when various foods are in season (hard to know if you shop at supermarkets).

The family also raises laying hens, as well as chickens and turkeys for meat. Kingsolver and her family have for many years eaten only non-factory farmed meat and felt good about raising their own animals. They would give their animals “freedom on an open pasture that’s unknown to conventionally raised poultry.” Kingsolver also responded to a Slow Food USA campaign to bring back heritage turkeys. Unlike the conventional Broad-Breasted White Turkey commonly raised in industrial settings, the heritage turkeys can actually support their own weight and reproduce naturally. In addition, these birds retain more of their wild ancestors’ sense about foraging, predator avoidance, and are more disease resistant.

Kingsolver’s husband Steven L. Hopp’s short essays provide information throughout the book on subjects such as the fossil fuel used to produce and ship our food, world hunger, genetically modified foods, family farms vs. industrial farms, industrial animal food production, paying the price for cheap, industrial-grown foods, the effectiveness of using pesticides and herbicides, mad cow disease, and much more. He provides resources to get more information as well as ways to take action. Kingsolver’s college-aged daughter, Camille provides recipes and anecdotes about the experience from a teenager’s point of view.

This book was inspiring. I was encouraging to hear about people who care about what they eat and how it’s produced. To find people who care about the environment and how our choices affect it and others. I don’t know if I’m ready to spend my summers hoeing, weeding and canning on a full time basis, but I will certainly take the time to seek out local farmers and support stores who carry local products.


stafex said...
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AnandaDevika said...

I'm in the middle of this book right now and just loving it!

Cathe Olson said...

Great - let me know how you liked it.

Mrs.B said...

Going to order it in at my local library. Looking forward to reading it.

Suasoria said...

I'm loving your blog, but I have to comment on this one! I know it's a petty argument, but raising and killing animals for food isn't "sustainable." The animal dies. It can't keep producing meat or even more animals once it's dead.

A fruit tree is sustainable. The tree doesn't die if you pick a plum to eat, it just keeps on making more. Arugula is sustainable, it will keep giving you seeds, so you keep getting more plants.

Meat is not sustainable. Maybe eggs and milk are, since the animal can keep producing more, but once it's dead, it no longer sustains.