Reflecting on yesterday’s National Holiday, I found myself remembering an inspirational book that I picked up at a Mother Earth News fair in Monticello, seven or eight years ago. At that time, were still fairly new to country living, but trying like heck to learn skills that would help us raise and store our food. Sharon Astyk’s book, Independence Days, challenged us to do something towards food independence every day, or every week. I clearly remember the first three concepts on her list: 1) plant something, 2) harvest something, or 3) put something up. Every day?
Thinking I was being clever, I added another item to that list today: bake something. Pulling out her book for this blog, I found that she had already beat me to that one. In fact, what I remembered as being her three key challenges for food independence, she actually listed five more: 4) minimize waste, 5) want not, 6) cook something new, 7) manage your reserves, and 8) work on local food systems. (We really need to work on #7!)
Sharon quotes Carla Emery (d. 2005), author of The Enclyclopedia of Country Living: An Old-Fashioned Recipe Book as being her inspiration, trying to travel the nation and help people get ready for tough times ahead. Quoting Carla about how she made sure her family was fed:
All spring I try and plant something every day – from late February, when the early peas and spinach and garlic can go in, on up to mid-summer, when the main potato crop and the late beans and lettuce go in. Then I switch over and make it my rule to try and get something put away for the winter every single day. That lasts until the pumpkins and sunflowers and late squash and green tomatoes are in. Then comes the struggle to get the most out of the stored food – all winter long. It has to be checked regularly, and you’ll need to add to that day’s menu anything that’s on the verge of spoiling, wilting or otherwise soon becoming useless. Or preserve it a new way. If a squash gets a soft spot, I can gut it out and cook, mash, can or freeze the rest for supper vegetable or pie, or add it to the bread dough.
You have to ration. You have all the good food you can eat right at arms reach and no money to pay…until you run out…
People have to choose what they’re going to struggle for. Life is always a struggle, whether or not you’re struggling for anything worthwhile, so it might as well be for something worthwhile. Independence days are worth struggling for. They’re good for me, good for the country and good for children. –Carla Emery
But back to Sharon’s book…
Sharon says she took on Carla’s words as her mantra. She writes:
Her words about choosing what we should struggle for rang out to me like the Declaration of Independence rings out. Or perhaps the Constitution of the United Food Sovereign People of the World. We so desperately need to declare our independence from the globalizing, totalitarian, toxic agriculture that is destroying our future, our power and our democracy.
And so, when in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to divorce themselves from a system that has become destructive, thus:
We the people, in order to form a more perfect union of human and nature, establish justice and ensure food sovereignty, provide for the common nutrition, promote the general welfare and ensure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United Food Sovereign People of the World.
We’ve been spending a lot of time talking and thinking about our food supply. GMOs. Processed. Refined. Enriched. All poisonous, and yet readily available at your local grocery store. I shudder at all of the processed foods that stock the shelves now, and question the source of every little thing I put in my cart. We buy organic whenever possible. We mostly buy things that we can’t grow or make but think we need – baking powder, for example – but we’re not perfect. Sometimes our schedule dictates poor nutrition choices, and I find myself challenged to plan meals better. After listening to Sally Fallon Morell (president, WAPF, and author of Nourishing Traditions) explain the results of a study of feeding boxed cereal to rats, I made a promise to myself that I will never buy another box of cereal. No matter how much milk we have!
Challenge yourself. Pick up a copy of this inspirational book Independence Days by Sharon Astyk, if you’d like to learn more.