Local View Column: Buying from local farmers can help heal our planet
Meatless Monday has become a catch phrase for those who want to do right by our precious earth. We desire to be good stewards of this planet. A growing movement is rethinking meat, beginning with the premise that growing meat causes pollution greater than the growing of grains.
If one were to “go vegan,” even for a day, the promise is that one would reduce his or her pollution footprint and increase personal health and well-being. If a family chose to stop buying factory-farmed meat raised in confinement from birth to death, those family members would indeed benefit the planet.
This is the lesser bad.
The case must be made that it is not the greatest good. There is a better way.
It’s called Sinless Sunday. Instead of replacing meat with vegan fare for Meatless Monday, buy local pasture-raised meat on Sunday. You'll be doing something extraordinary for the planet and your family. If healthy bodies and a healthy planet are our goals, then we should look to nature as our guide.
In order to grow food, we must have fertility. Let’s take the narrative back to the very soil we depend upon for nourishment. When we take livestock away from the land and house them in large-scale confined feeding operations, or CAFOS, or when we do away with livestock altogether in favor of vegan living, we must rely on artificial fossil-fuel fertilizers to sustain plant growth.
Nature has a much better way. It’s plain old manure. Animals freely give us the nitrogen and many other nutrients that the soil needs to produce abundance. It is simple, cyclical, and regenerative. Without animal droppings spread about naturally on the land by the animals themselves, commercial farms are forced to prop up fertility on fossil-fuel nitrogen. By an energy-intensive process, nitrogen fertilizer is extracted from the atmosphere using natural gas as a heating agent to burn oxygen. Pelletized, it is trucked to conventional farms that produce grains for confined animals. It is profitable to do business this way.
Profitable without question, but I bring forth the question: Is it good? Perhaps we all know by now this way of living is not good. We feel it in our gut. Recently, I had an eye-opening conversation with a retired commercial hog farmer. He candidly shared with me that he moved three miles away from his own hog barns for relief from the stench. No one wants an operation like that in their backyard — not even the farmer.
In contrast, a verdant oasis of life with mixed pastures, forest, orchards, and crops is a beauty beyond description. Wildflowers perfume the hillsides and grasses the pastureland. Farmers exist who do business this way.
At Salt and Light Heritage Farm, we do. We produce meat organically in one accord with nature. Because our livestock have a symbiotic relationship with our land, we see our thin northern soils improved. This gives us vibrant life and enough abundance to share with our community. Our website features a map of other natural farmers in the Arrowhead region. This map comes thanks to an innovative project by the Finland Food Web.
Because of our farmers, we can nourish ourselves and heal the planet. It’s easy to buy from a local farmer. Some entrepreneurial farms even offer doorstep delivery. Let’s do this together. For a flourishing world and healthy people, try Sinless Sunday. It satisfies more than Meatless Monday.
Leah Bailey is a farmer in Two Harbors at Salt and Light Heritage Farm (organic-mn.com).