One of the wonderful things about being home from Iraq is the ability to get good food. Regardless of what you think the food tastes like, the food is of the lowest quality possible, I call it sub-institutional level. The contractor gets paid a lot per head per meal, but they get the lowest cost food available. It is all conventional grown and most is processed in some way. It would be extremely unhealthy to eat this kind of food over the long term.
As I have learned more and more about how our food is produced, I become more and more concerned and as soon as I got home, I started looking for local organic growers and pasture fed beef, pork, chicken, and lamb. I found Augusta Locally Grown. It seems that many communities have such groups these days (Google “locally grown ‘your town'”) and it is wonderful. They take orders over the weekend and you pick up your food on Tuesday afternoon.
Even for late October, the selection is very good, obviously, we are talking seasonally grown vegetables, plus meat, dairy, and a lot of other truly natural products. Not all are certified organic because the USDA certification process is too expensive for small farmers. So, food may be labeled “no chemicals” and the like and you can find out if they are really organic, but just aren’t allowed to say so. Knowing who grows your food means it doesn’t matter if it is certified.
Anyway, we tried a variety of items on this first order. Here is what we got:
- Green snap beans
- Bok Choi
- Buttercrunch lettuce
- Goat Chèvre cheese
- Goat feta cheese in olive oil and herbs
- Goat raw milk Stilton cheese
- Potato (heirloom variety)
- Pasture raised chicken breasts
- Pasture fed beef short ribs
- Pasture fed pork butt
Of the things we have tried so far, quality is amazing, especially if you are used to grocery store produce. The green beans in our local Publix are absolutely horrible looking, as reflects how old they are. Same with the Bok Choi. I have used a chicken breast, a bok choi, some green beans, the lettuce and arugula, the feta and Chèvre.
The Chèvre is possibly the best I have ever had. The chicken breast and beans were excellent in a lemongrass based Thai dish I made last night. The potatoes were a concern as they were pretty expensive compared to conventionally grown. I chopped them up, tossed them in olive oil and sea salt and cooked them in the oven. Yes, they were expensive, but you can’t get this wonderful flavor unless you grow them yourself, certainly not from the selection at your grocer.
Some of the items were more expensive than we are used to, but we have to realize that the United States government made a conscious decision in the early 1900s to trade quality for quantity and low prices with food. You get what you pay for, including destroying the environment and giving us vegetables and fruits covered with pesticides and genetically engineered and meat with antibiotics and inhumane production conditions. We traded health, small and family farms, and entire rural communities for the food our modern agribusiness system provides.
What I didn’t expect is that some of the food was actually less expensive (the lettuce, bok choi, and arugula) and some was pretty comparable (the cheeses). I think the meat prices would be reduced if there were not so many Draconian laws surrounding sale of meat from farms. These laws supposedly are to protect us, yet what they actually do is take away free choice and make it impossible for small meat growers to sell their food without jumping through expensive and often stupid hoops (for really stupid, look at what is required to sell eggs from a backyard flock legally).
I am totally sold on Augusta Locally Grown. If you live around here, try it out. If not, there is probably a Locally Grown network near you.