Why Knowing Your Farmer Is Important For Your Health

Know your food, know your farmers, and know your kitchen.
– Joel Salatin

Most Saturday’s during the summer I take a trip to the SLC Downtown Farmers Market and even if I don’t buy anything, I’m looking for conversation. The majority of the time however, I leave with more produce and locally made products than I need. I buy them because I fall in love with the the sheer beauty of the veggies and the connections I made with the maker. 

The beauty of markets such as these lies in the construction of a community, it’s the weaving together of people from various backgrounds for one common goal; to sell their goods to people in the area because they believe in what they produce. Buying locally takes on a whole new meaning when we consider food quality and our health. 

It seems like in the last decade the term “Buy Local” has blown up on the internet, bumper stickers and paraded around on more and more USA main streets across the country. It’s like not-so-secret club that everyone is welcome to join and I promise you want to be IN this club. As we talk about getting to know your farmer and why it’s important to shop at farmers markets, buy a share in a CSA, and buy from local stores, we have to address the benefits being so much more than simply knowing the location of where your food comes from. It’s an important factor for understanding not only what it takes to make your food to appreciate it’s cost and value of course, but going even deeper, this is why knowing your farmer is important for your health.

Whether we’re talking about vegetables or livestock, knowing where your food is grown or raised plays an integral role in understanding how it works in your body too. If you know who is raising the chicken’s for the eggs you’re eating with your bacon (and I think everything is better with bacon) for breakfast, you have the knowledge to understand precisely how those chickens roam, what they eat, and inadvertently what you’re eating. Say you have a corn allergy but you’re buying eggs from the grocery store that are “free range” or “fed a vegetarian diet”  you won’t know for sure whether those hens are eating bugs or are supplemented with feed, most likely made of corn. By reaching out to a farmer, you get to bond with the person whose hands tend to the animals that sustain your own livelihood, this is an education.

The power of food as medicine is unbelievable, but it would be incomprehensible without power of education.

I recommend taking a tour or volunteering at your favorite local farm. Spending time at a farm has it’s immediate health benefits aside from empowering your healthy choices. 

Just by being outside, exposing yourself to new things and learning, your mood will be elevated. And doing this perpetuates gratitude for the reciprocity of the relationship

What happens is you begin to realize the impact you have with your consumption of food. It’s not a passive action, as in some ways it can appear by strolling through the grocery store buying products off the shelves or even with produce that is labeled organic yet you aren’t entirely sure what went into the soil. As you deepen your relationship with the person who cultivates the food you buy you’re able to find gratitude for food that you’re eating as you begin to understand that you’re not the only one that matters in the equation.

Getting to know your farmer gets you out of thinking “self” and into think “us all” as you consider the animals, the farmer, the community and economy. It’s like a Newton’s cradle, by pulling one side of the ball or more than one ball the kinetic energy has to pass through every ball in order to reach the other end. It’s this velocity which causes the opposite ball to begin moving, simultaneously igniting the back an forth motion as energy is transmitted in this pattern. Every ball is touched by the instigation of the initial energy and each plays a part in order for the them to continue in movement.

If we’re adamant about knowing where our food comes from we must actually seek it out so that our farmer’s can continue to grow organic vegetables and raise quality livestock. I believe we have to step outside of how we currently understand food in this day and age, and instead into the root of the process to grasp our part in it all. I know, not everyone may have direct access to go out and spend a day at a farm, but nonetheless getting to know the farmer’s at your market will help you in facilitating a connection to deepen your relationship with what you’re feeding yourself.

Spending time with another living thing is about forming a relationship, time is money and if you’re asking me, time is the most valuable investment. When you give someone the opportunity to share their story with you, you’ve slipped a coin into the jukebox of their soul.

The beauty of knowing your farmer in this way is that there is no guessing. No wondering whether something is organic, or grass-fed, or raised in a cage. You’ve now armed yourself with another tool in your arsenal for combating health challenges, you can feel sure that your choices are solid.

Forming a personal relationship with a farmer and the animals they raise causes you to value their livelihood and appreciate the cost of what they produce. Through knowing the food you’re eating from them will nourish your health but affect many more than you. By knowing your farmer you’re giving back on a much larger scale, it’s an investment in “us all”.

Have any of you been out to visit farms, gotten to know your farmers? Share your experience in the comments below!