Welcome to my first blog. My name is Heather Newman and I’m sure it won’t take you long to realize that I am not a writer. I am a mother, a gardener, a farmer, a cook, a taxi driver, a science graduate and many other things, but my writing experience consists of science lab reports and grocery lists. With that disclaimer out of the way this blog is designed share information about local food. I better start by sharing why this matter so much to me. Food is the link that connects the important things in my life.
If you know me, you are aware that food production and preparation is a very central part of my life. You may wonder why anyone would dedicate time to baking bread, growing enough beans, or canning when it’s cheaper to pay someone else to do these things for you. On the hectic days, trust me, I often question my own sanity, but when I look at the bigger picture true value always comes back into focus.
There is a cost to more convenient foods that we often forget to consider and a richness to knowing where your food comes from that is hard to put a price on. What I eat and how that food is grown, influence all the valuable things in my life; my health, my family, my community and the environment that I all live in.
As a society, we might not all agree on the same types of food to eat, but I don’t think there is anyone that is not aware that what we eat affects our health. If your list of responsibilities includes preparing meals for others, then your food choices affect your family’s health too. The meals we share are not only connected to the health of my family, but they also connect us as a family. Daily time spent together around the dinner table, in the kitchen or the garden are spent teaching essential skills and strengthening bonds that I hope will last a lifetime.
I will try not to get too carried away with the lovely picture of everyone laughing and sharing about their day over a perfectly prepared home cooked meal or of four children working peacefully and industriously alongside me in the kitchen or the garden. On a rare occasion you may find that scene in my home. More often, like any other parent, my days are spent trying to savour the moments of joy, mixed with the frustration of spilled milk and refereeing petty arguments. I expect a full range of reactions when I inform one of my children they will be helping me with food preparations. One day I may get the child that brings new enthusiasm to the job, with their eagerness to learn how to make their favorite dish, the next day my request may be met with resentment that I am taking them away from their favorite video game. Through those ups and down, which are normal no matter what you are trying to do with your children, we are all learning more about each other and how to get along through the good times and the bad. I am teaching them about their own health and how to feed themselves. They learn to appreciate why we don’t waste food, because they played an integral part in the effort it took to get those beans to their plate. The lessons are endless and the time spent together is invaluable. Our food choices can affect our health directly and working together on something that we all value helps us build healthy relationships within our family.
Those relationships can extend into our community. In rural areas like ours, whole towns were originally built around food production. Even though we are fortunate enough in Bruce County to have other industries that fuel the economy, many small towns are still struggling to maintain schools and communities centers. With the ability to produce so much of what we eat right here in our backyards the shop local message is very relevant when it comes to our food. With a little planning, it is cost-effective as well. When we purchase food from our neighbours we are not only supporting jobs for those farming families, we are also supporting the services we all contribute to, like roads, schools and walking trails. Every time there is another person who can make a living here, life is better for all of us. We are building a strong economy and tight-knit community.
Farmers are the caretakers of much of the land surrounding us. The impact of our food choices on the environment can be seen in your own backyard and on a global scale. Even a potted herb on a patio deck can improve your space and feed local bees. Supporting farmers who have a sustainable mindset protects our wildlife, waterways and pollinators. When our food has less distance to travel it has a smaller carbon footprint. Less processed food not only takes less energy to produce, it is also cheaper and better for you.
As the pace of life speeds up, food becomes more convenient, but it tends to decrease in quality and our connection to where our food comes from is weakened. The impact of this is seen in all these important aspects of our lives. Sometimes we don’t even realize what we are missing. Less of us are involved in growing our own food and skills that our grandparents would have considered a way of life are being lost. Fortunately, many people are aware that we are paying a silent cost for fast food and have a desire to see those connections strengthened again.
Those of us who want to see change can start by connecting with each other. It is important that we start to have a positive discussion around food. There is no one right way to eat and not all of us have to be gardeners, raise chickens or even be a great cook. Food should be an enjoyable and satisfying part of our day. After all everybody has to eat, everyday and nobody should have to feel guilt, shame or worry about their food. If we share with each other and learn together, our food choices have the power to be a positive change for ourselves, our family, community and our environment. Appreciating the value of quality food and making smart choices about the conveniences we include in our lives means that we can have our cake and eat it too.