I'm sure by now, everyone has heard we can expect an increase in food prices before the summer is out. As if they don't seem high enough already! But what we fail to realize is that historically, food prices have always been high and it's only in the last 30 years or so that we've enjoyed the benefits of a lower grocery budget.
At the turn of the 20th century, families spent approximately 43 percent of their income on food for the table. Woah... let that sink in a minute. That's more than the average house payment. In fact, that's nearly HALF one's income! Take out another 10% for tithe and 10% for savings and you're left with only 37% of your salary. Of course, taxes were much lower then, but how many of you could pay the utilities, gasoline (much less buy a car), clothe your children, and provide the other "necessities" on that kind of money.
You may have to soon. And perhaps it wouldn't be a bad thing.
With the dawn of regular farming subsidies, prices at the market started falling. Today, only about 11 - 19% is spent on food. And what did we do with all that "extra cash"? We began entertaining ourselves. (I have a LOT to say on this topic, but I'll reserve that for another day).
But what's worse is that it's come at a price. Perhaps delayed, but unavoidably obvious... our health is on the line. The health of the soil, the animals, and our bodies.
And there's more! All those government subsidies opened the door for our government to control crop production. And whoever controls the food production, controls the world. Hmmm... I don't think this is what God had in mind when He said, "Take dominion over the earth".
Really, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe in human greed. It's in the heart of all men (and women). Over time, the way we've managed food has become a vicious cycle allowing greed to flourish, not only on the part of government, but farmers, and yes, even consumers. We want cheap food and lots of it! In fact, we want any food, at any time, at a cheap price. We even want "healthy" food at bargin prices.
Can anyone say "gluttony"?
Just what do we think that word means, anyway?
At this point in time, we've convinced ourselves as a nation that government subsidies and scientifically modified, chemically laced foods are the only way to farm and feed people. Perhaps YOU may be enlightened, but the majority of the population still believes this.
For example... I pulled over on the side of the road to buy some "local" honey from a man on the corner and I asked him a bit about his product. I only needed to pose two questions to know I was NOT getting what I had hoped... "Where do you keep your hives?" (turns out it was "a friend" over 135 miles away) and "Does your friend use chemicals to treat them for mites and disease?", at which point he started to tell me that you really can't raise bees without treating them, blah, blah, blah...
If he was using natural methods, I'm sure he would have been quick to offer this up, but instead, he started in on a long, round about way of trying to convince me that there really wasn't such a thing as naturally raised honey. Now, I'm a beekeeper myself, and I know very well I can't control where my bees fly. But I can control what methods I use in the hive itself.
Look... I think most of you already know this stuff. Even if you've only had a nagging feeling, tugging at you in the back of your mind... you've known for a while something isn't right with all that food in the supermarket.
Why am I addressing this, yet again?
• Because I need a constant reminder why I'm going to pay more to a local farmer for in-season, non-GMO, grass fed, pesticide-free, non-subsidized, real, whole food.
• Because I need constant encouragement to grow my own, especially when it's hot outside or a crop fails. And I need to keep at it until I produce food my family can eat and eventually, provide 80 - 90% of what we need.
• Because I need to adjust my budget so I set aside a larger percentage of income for our food. And accept the fact that the "golden age" of food is over. Something else on the budget will have to go (or be cut back).
• Because our current food system is fragile and the warning system is going off - loudly! Too many of us assume that a famine only occurs as a result of drought. Oh, we have that alright, but what about a famine as a result of the fact that our food has very little nutrition anymore? Or that it fails to reproduce? Or that it will kill bees and butterflies when they try to extract it's nectar?
• Because I'm voting with my dollars and my fork. And I want to encourage you to do so as well. There is power in numbers and where greed has a hold of a system, money talks.
• Because I do not want to be slave to the system. Freedom always comes at a price. Even food freedom. And we have our head in the sand if we don't acknowledge the importance of this fact. A while back I read Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky and I must say, I got a real education about life and food in general. It's really amazing to a 21st century American that entire wars could have been fought over a product on the bottom shelf of the grocery store that sells for just a few dollars and is so common that we use it to make play dough and any number of other things just for the fun of it. We (I) really are clueless...
• Because food can become an idol. While shunning "cheap" groceries and spending more on it may seem idolatrous at first glance, the opposite is more likely to be true. By recognizing that the system is fragile, that quality food is of great value, and that it requires extra time and effort to obtain nutritious groceries, we begin to realize that it's not something we should take for granted.
The harder we work for our food, the more we appreciate it as a gift from a loving God who provides daily for our needs. Few things help us to see this as much as trying to actually grow our own food. Perhaps that's why God designed Adam and Eve to toil in the garden, fighting weeds. The punishment was actually a gift; an antidote for their souls when they took their food for granted and ate whatever they desired. Ever since, man has labored in the dirt and often met God in the process, realizing that it all comes from Him. Unfortunately, our modern food system makes it difficult for us to make this connection.
What can you do?
• Do not buy the cheapest groceries you can find. Please. PLEASE! Invest in your food. That does not mean you should pay the most expensive prices out there, either. But you should be willing to pay a fair price without grumbling or complaining to the small farmer. They're not making a killing on you, but rather they're trying NOT to depend on the government. The sooner you adopt a mindset that food costs good money, the sooner you'll be on your way to real food freedom.
There are lots of different avenues to securing good food (and most of us will do this in combination)...
• CSAs (farm subscriptions)
• Farmer's Markets
• Roadside stands
• Bartering (neighbor to neighbor)
• Food swaps (group events)
• Food co-ops (such as Azure Standard)
• Direct from the farm
• Community gardens
• Grow your own
• Make a plan to gradually increase your food budget. Which means you're going to need to cut back somewhere else (unless you have a money tree in your backyard?). This also means you'll need to make sacrifices. We really need a reality check on NEEDS v. WANTS and what that should look like. I fear we're all much better at talking the walk and not so good at walking the talk.
• Cut back in consumption of expensive items such as fruits, meats, and dairy products, and increase your vegetable intake. (If I'm not mistaken, that's what the doctor REALLY would like to see you eat.) The good news? You'll appreciate the more expensive items when you do eat them.
Both my husband and my daughter have traveled to various third world countries where they were guests in the home of some local family. In both cases, they were served chicken. This was a feast to these villagers, an offering of their very best. Something that they had on rare occasions, not 3-4 times a week (like most Americans). At first, this baffled me a bit... why was it such a rare treat?
I totally get that now. I'm raising White Rock chickens (not Cornish Cross) and its going to take about 5 months to raise a modest bird for the freezer. That's a lot more feed, which translates into one expensive meal. Even with free ranging as much as I can, it would be outrageously priced if it were to end up in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Honestly, I've quit tracking my feed costs for the most part, knowing that I need to free range these guys every chance I can, even sending the kids out to "chicken sit" every now and then so the wild animals don't get the birds. (I'm sure someone would like to notify child protective services on that one!)
When we sit down to eat that meal, I guarantee you... it will be appreciated! I'll be thanking the Lord that the bobcat didn't get it before us, that I had grain to feed it when the grass was lean, that it scratched in the dirt and ate my bugs, that we saw it from chick to table and know how it lived, and that we had the physical strength from God to labor over it all those months.
It will not be cheap and it will not be taken for granted.