Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Holy cow, I think we've met before!"

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The Spruce Knob Mountain Center is proud to let you know that we now serve pork sausage and beef from Flying W Farms in nearby Burlington, WV. With the rising gas prices, local food sourcing is making economic sense now more than ever. This meat-seeking non-profit can relish not only saving a few bucks, but also in hearts that don’t sink with every mouthful of biscuits and sausage gravy. Why do our omnivorous hearts now soar? Because unlike trucked-in pounds of meat, local meat comes with answers to our questions: How were these animals raised? How much gas did it take to get this meatball on top of my spaghetti? What farmer raised what animal and did they like each other – those creatures that depended on one another for so much?

The certified natural beef we buy from Flying W Farms is pastured for about three quarters of its life and grain finished outside Petersburg, WV on their farm. It is also processed (slaughtered and butchered) on that same farm. I emphasize place because most of the beef in this country is pastured in one state, grain finished in the feed lots of another, moved again for processing, and trucked even further on down the road to a distribution plant. It is impossible to know much about the life of what you are eating when it has passed through so many different hands.

I am all in favor of wanderlust, but I have to admit, such cultured cows make me downright uncomfortable. Why buy perishable items that have been tramping all around the country instead of those that had the sensibility to stay home? They can come home with all kinds of troubling new ideas. USDA food qualifications such as “Organic,” “Cage-Free,” and “Non-GMO” help us differentiate from what we have come to call “conventional.”[1] To be certified as “natural,” meat must be “minimally processed” with no artificial ingredients added (to the meat). Additionally, Flying W does not administer growth hormones or antibiotics (to the animals).

The pork processed at Flying W Farms comes from David Hevener’s farm outside of Franklin, WV, from whence came our own joyous pig Chicha (also known as Eleanor). On that farm I have seen with my own eyes grand sows lounging in the pastoral shade of a sunny day. I have shaken the very hand that helped pull a wee piglet into this corner of Appalachia and created new life from grass and rocks and drainages, a life whose body will nourish my own.

West Virginians spent almost $4,000 each on food last year, but less than 1% of that went to in-state farms. West Virginia has never been a big producer of non-timber cash crops, but we have managed to send a large percent of our money and resources out of state. Spending our money on in-state farms, however, has a ripple effect that improves the general local economy: “a $1 dollar increase in personal income of farm establishments creates roughly a $4 increase in total personal income in the West Virginia economy.”[2]

Small farming communities are part of our Appalachian heritage, in a land where mountains have hemmed in development and dictated livelihoods – where immediate community can be more important than large-scale industry. As non-renewable sources of energy deplete, let us turn to each other, for on the day that they are gone, what will we know how to do? Who will we thank for our food and our heat and our laughter? How about our neighbors? How about ourselves?

Next time your near Burlington, visit Rick and Margaret Woodworth's Flying W Farm store on Route 50 & 220 or drop them a line at 304/289-3005. -EG

[1] Visit: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/meat_&_poultry_labeling_terms/index.asp

for more information on certification terms and conditions.

[2] Visit: http://www.caf.wvu.edu/gdsouzawww/agricultureinWVeconomy.pdf for more information on farm industry and local economy.

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