Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 4.16.09

Meet Your Farmer
and change your life!
by Deb McGee

Today I had the pleasure of delivering a truckload of firewood to a neighbor. I gathered the wood for free and at the same time helped a friend thin a long neglected Christmas tree farm.

The wood was a trade/barter for the two Thanksgiving turkeys that I had received last November. My farmer neighbor raises true free range heritage turkeys. Blue Bourbons are a “dying breed.” They are not as “cost effective” as the turkeys bread with breasts so enlarged their legs break. Corporate factory farmers want to butcher birds as young as possible, so they are bred to grow fast. A percentage of the birds grow so fast their hearts burst before they are butchered. Blue Bourbons are normally proportioned and can fly, and the meat tastes incredible!

I know my farmer and I saw my turkey in the field as a chick and later as an adolescent and of course on the day it was butchered. My farmer instituted a “pluck your own” policy. I welcome the honesty of being an omnivore involved in my “food chain.” In fact, plucking day became a soulful community event for the 50 or so who came to get their turkeys. Whole families came — some clad head to toe in plastic gear and rubber boots. Some brought homemade soup, bread, cheese and sausage to share. Children could see the life blood of the turkeys, shed to nourish their lives. Those who had plucked before shepherded those of us who had never seen their food with feathers on. 

In this day of anonymous people producing our “factory farmed,” frequent flyer, fossil fueled food (Americans’ average bite of food has traveled 1,500 miles), it was amazing to experience the integrity of participating in the local sustainable “solar” harvest of our Thanksgiving dinner.

Research tells us that Americans have become increasingly less happy since the 1950s. At any given time, 46 percent of Americans take (legal) mood-altering pharmaceuticals. Our children are overweight but undernourished, entitled to “collect ’em all” consumption, and some are so angry they go to school and kill their peers. We live longer but are less healthy and now one in three of us will get cancer — some multiple times. Global warming, climate change, economic and environmental devastation — it seems the writing is on the wall: change or die!

I want to invite you to a life changing celebration that I know can result in a happier, healthier, more sustainable life! April 21 will be the 10th anniversary celebration of “That’s My Farmer.” You can meet the 13 local organic community supported agriculture (CSA) farmers in the Eugene area, support “shares” of food for low income families, win farmer-raised or grown door prizes, sing songs about food and justice and hobnob with Mayor Piercy and members of the 16 faith community coalition that sponsor the event. I predict the organic homemade ice cream (at the very end of the program) will, for at least a few moments increase your immediate happiness greatly!

As for me, I’m now trading my labor, restoring a neglected vineyard to a farmer for all the wine grapes I can grow! Who knows, maybe you’ll make an amazing connection at That’s My Farmer!

The event is from 6:30 to 8:30 pm Tuesday, April 21, at the  United Methodist Church, 13th and Olive. Suggested donation is $5-$10, which goes to low-income CSA shares.

Deb McGee of Eugene is an adjunct professor at Northwest Christian University.