Food Indy-pendence Day

An Indianapolis rendezvous with the family (and new baby niece) was the Fourth of July destination of the Farmer's Marketer this year. Without too much arm-twisting, I managed to get the good people of the aforementioned family to sign on to a plan to make it a "Food Independence Day" - making our good American grub with food from our very own heartland states (Indiana, Michigan and Iowa).  With a couple of CSA farm shares and a garden between us,  all we needed was a trip to an Indy farmers' market to fill in the gaps for our feast.   

On the menu were: 

- Rachel's recipe for Sloppy Joes with Indiana's Royer Farm grass fed beef and Valentine Hill Bakery's whole wheat buns. Yum!
- Beets and slaw from the MIL's garden.
- Shelling peas from our beloved Tantré farm (which made the trip across the border).
- Michigan cherry-blueberry crisp for dessert. 

July 4th, 2009
On Saturday the 4th (our national holiday of grilling and exploding) I was a little worried that maybe people would stay home from the market to enjoy life with their families.  But things were hopping at both the tiny Fishers Farmers' Market, near my sister-in-law's family homestead, and also at the larger, ever so slightly more metropolitan (I could tell because people had bikes with trailers on the back) Broad Ripple Market behind the high school. Yes, there is a town called Broad Ripple in Indiana.  And along with the pot pies, hickory syrup, and the Seldom Seen Farm, they had some killer tamales for sale, made by a Los Angeles transplant. 

The Broad Ripple market was great, but I really loved the smaller Fishers market, set up in pop-up tents on the green grass next to the municipal center. Red, white and blue potatoes, and berries, and  flags flying with a huge grain elevator looming in the background.  At the Fishers market, I got my first taste of creamy, nutty, organic Fleur de la Terre cheese from the Brown Swiss, grass-fed cows at Trader's Point Creamery.  They also had incredible yogurt, cottage cheese, and a great creamy soft pot cheese.  We bought our 4th of July hamburger after talking a bit with Nikki Royer, 5th generation farmer at the Royer Farm in Vermilion County, Indiana, where she and her husband raise around 70 head of pastured cattle and 70 free-range hogs every year.  And we got the lowdown about the other good organic farms in the area from the farm manager at the Taylor Family CSA and University Farm in Anderson, IN.  

Like Michigan, Indiana appears to have a small, but vibrantly thriving local food scene. I was thrilled to learn about (although also disappointed that we missed) a local food fair, dinner and screening of The Garden on July 2, sponsored by Slow Food Indy.... 

At these little ad hoc markets there is undeniable evidence of the tiny shred of a meaningful past and a hopeful future, almost swallowed up in a vast suburban wasteland. Driving by a beautiful, tumbledown brick farmhouse on the corner of an industrial park unleashes a piercing regret for the agrarian past we've lost. But hidden under a few of those pop-up market tents remains one small aspect of what is best about this country - people whose care and hard work brings us real food and an unbroken connection, now worn to only a thread, with the land that sustains us.  

Perhaps it's possible to strengthen that thread by reinforcing it....with conversation, appreciation, cooking. The art of making home in the broadest sense. And voting with my dollars and with my feet to know where in the world my food  comes from and what is in it.

So, (Food) Independence Day? 

I've been reading in the Declaration of Independence that the American colonists believed that because of and along with their certain inalienable rights: 

"That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

There were also conditions under which reasonable people could not tolerably live: 

"when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.""

Rather than King George's despotic rule, they believed independence was the only tenable option, and that it was, in fact, their moral responsibility to dissolve the connection with Great Britain and take on themselves, as the "united States of America," the burden of the

"full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do." 

While they might have anticipated the cost in lives and livelihoods, they could not have known how taking this step would change the future. They knew only that, whatever the cost, the path of justice lay in divine providence, and in placing themselves in each others' care.

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

A complicated set of decisions had to take place before undertaking unification as a confederation of states, and then again to standing up to both the internal voices favoring the status quo of British rule, and the enormous costs of war. 

So what does Food Independence Day have to do with any of that?  
Joel Salatin writes: "At the risk of stating the obvious, the unprecedented variety of bar-coded packages in today's supermarket really does not mean that our generation enjoys better food options than our predecessors. These packages, by and large, having passed through the food-inspection fraternity, the industrial food fraternity and the lethargic cheap-food-purchasing consumer fraternity, represent an incredibly narrow choice....

Strong words? Try buying real milk -- as in raw. See if you can find meat processed in the clean open air under sterilizing sunshine. Look for pot pies made with local produce and meat. How about good old unpasteurized apple cider? Fresh cheese? Unpasteurized almonds? All these staples that our great-grandparents relished and grew healthy on have been banished from today's supermarkets."

If we believe that we have an inalienable right to life, liberty and real food, then it's clear that a there has been a "long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object." Short term resource extraction for profit trumping health and a sustainable future. 

Salatin writes that (like our other moral heroes of non-violent revolution) the remedy is to stop participating

"Perhaps the most empowering concept in any paradigm-challenging movement is simply opting out. The opt-out strategy can humble the mightiest forces because it declares to one and all, "You do not control me."

The time has come for people who are ready to challenge the paradigm of factory-produced food and to return to a more natural, wholesome and sustainable way of eating (and living) to make that declaration to the powers that be, in business and government, that established the existing system and continue to prop it up. It's time to opt out and simply start eating better -- right here, right now."

Opting out of the despotic rule of factory-produced corn, soy, and petroleum-based food  I think would make Thomas Jefferson proud. I read somewhere that he grew over 30 varieties of peas in his home garden.  The added benefit of becoming food patriots is - it's delicious. 

Copyright 2011 - The Farmer's Marketer