Monday, June 08, 2009
Everyone Likes Eggs at The Farmer’s Market - But Please Buy Some Lamb!
This past week, The Farmer, Julia and I did two mid-week farmer’s markets in little towns close by to our farm. We were asked by a friend who is in charge of the Agricultural Commission in a neighboring town if we would come sell our lamb. She had heard that we were now trying to establish a retail lamb meat business. We said “yes” without really thinking about what it would entail and then had to follow through on our promise.
The Tuesday market is held in the parking lot of The United Church in Bernardston. It is free for farmers (no booth charge at these markets) but as a farmer, you have to commit to packing a truck, driving there (20 minutes one way), standing and smiling for 3 hours – hoping some kind soul will buy our lamb, and then packing up, driving home, and unloading the truck at our place, moving the frozen lamb to yet another freezer before cooking dinner, getting the homework done, and then collapsing for the night.
In addition, we had to purchase a smallish chest freezer ($250) that could go to the market with us (the local Board of Health looks out for all of you!), a special adaptor for the truck to turn the battery into an electric outlet for the chest freezer ($59), and an extension cord ($10). I also had to pack up a calculator, business cards, promotional cards, pen, change box, some water to drink, and whatever else we all possibly need for three hours in the sun. Then we had to weigh and mark the meat with prices – since I don’t want to have to also haul the scale (which I bought on-line from Scales Galore for $150 plus freight - which by the way would make an awesome scale for anyone doing dyeing....), pack the meat in a cooler with ice to hold it while we drove in two separate trucks to the market. (The Farmer had hay down and couldn't stay and sell with us.) When we got to the market, we had to off-load all this stuff, including the totally unwieldy chest freezer that takes two strong people to get off the truck safely. I think if we had thought all this out, we might not have been so quick to say ‘yes, sounds like fun and a good opportunity!”
I’m posting all this stuff here for you to read for your enjoyment (Oh, yeah – are they nuts or what?) and for your education as to what it takes for a farmer to go to a Farmer’s Market. And none of these kooky details include what it took to birth the lambs, raise them successfully, get them to the slaughterhouse, drop them off safely, pick them up and transport them home successfully to our freezer, only to pack them up again and then take them to our local farmer’s market.
I am not writing this for sympathy. Aaaahhh, woe is me – This is all so much hard work….. I am writing this to get all of you, my loyal readers, to visit your local farmer’s market and support your local farmers! The Farmer’s Market Concept is becoming so popular and widespread now that many, many small towns are organizing them in church parking lots, town commons and other spaces. They are fun to go to by yourself, with your children, or with a friend. By visiting and buying from your local farmers, you’ll help keep the agricultural land in your area planted, productive, and green. You’ll have a direct input to your local community by keeping your dollars in local families homes as compared to shopping with huge “out of town” corporations.
Lately, I’ve been thinking there needs to be a Ravelry Group called “Knitters Who Eat Lamb!) What do you think? Would anyone join? I think about this a lot because as I travel around the country, teaching knitting with color or whatever I am most interested in at the moment, I usually include a brief introduction to where I live. I usually give a bit of a slide show – showing my family and extended family of animals. Inevitably, as I talk about our sheep, lambs, pigs, chickens, there is always a “cry-out” from many knitters in the audience. “Oh my goodness,” they say, “How could you eat them?” The easiest way for me to explain to people why it is necessary for us to sell our lambs for meat is to talk about the exponential growth that occurs in a flock of sheep. We started out with four sheep back in 1979. That morphed to 7, then 15, then 30, and on and on. We have literally birthed thousands of sheep over these past 30 years. No farmer, unless perhaps they are Paul McCartney or someone else with very deep pockets, could ever continue to feed and keep all the sheep that are born – year after year. Not to mention the work, the hay that has to be cut, the housing that needs to be built for the flock. It just doesn’t work that way. And so we choose to eat our sheep and sell them for meat.
I grew up in the suburbs of NY City – in northern New Jersey. My family didn’t raise our own food, except for some veggies. All of our food came from the local grocery store. Every night, we ate some kind of protein, whether it be chicken, beef, fish or pork. Never did my sisters and I have any realistic regard for the life that was sacrificed for our dinner, nor the farmer who grew it. Dinner was just expected – protein and vegetables with some kind of potato, bread or rice every night before we ran out the door to a high school extra-curricular meeting or homework before the t.v. screen.
No, the meat that America buys does not originate magically in plastic wrapped Styrofoam container packages. That meat has to originate somewhere. That animal that you are feeding to your family – whether it be hamburg (cow), chicken tenders (poultry), lamb chops (sheep), or pork tenderloin (pig) – all started somewhere – on someone’s farm (factory farm or homestead – they all begin somewhere). That piece of meat began as a baby animal. It grew into an adult that was of a size that was advantageous for the farmer to part with at a certain cost. That animal was released into the food chain and became packaged meat for your family to enjoy.
So what in the heck is the title of this post all about? I also brought a couple dozen of my hen’s eggs to the market. They were gone in a flash. I think shoppers are a little afraid of eating lamb. I’ll keep working on them though. Our lamb is tasty and delicious and healthy. I only wish my hens could lay three eggs each a day. Everyone loves farm fresh eggs, don’t they? They don’t have to think about the animal being slaughtered, they just think about healthy little chickens running around a farmyard!
Off to paint yet another sign – a Leyden Glen Farm sign to drag around to the local Farmer’s Markets!