Episode 53 - Food Security

Food Security As middle-aged women embarking on the journey of homesteading or farming, it's crucial for us to delve into the realm of food security. Many of us envision ourselves producing ample food to sustain our households and perhaps even selling surplus goods at local farmers' markets or setting up roadside stalls. However, what often goes unnoticed is the significant influence of supermarkets, the primary purchasers of farm produce, and their monopolistic practices. Let's consider how supermarkets operate: They have a cunning strategy in negotiating prices with suppliers. For instance, they may approach Supplier A and offer to purchase 100 kilograms of cucumbers at a certain price, say $10 per kilogram, totaling $1000. Then, they approach Supplier B, implying that Supplier A has agreed to the deal but ask if Supplier B can offer cucumbers at a lower price. This prompts Supplier B to negotiate a lower rate, perhaps $9 per kilogram, reducing the supermarket's expenditure to $900 for the same quantity. Some might argue that this is merely supply and demand at work, with farmers not agreeing to sell below their cost of production. However, the cycle continues. The supermarket then returns to Supplier A, claiming they can get cucumbers for $9 per kilogram elsewhere, pressuring Supplier A to lower their price to $8 per kilogram to secure the sale. This push-and-pull continues until suppliers are squeezed to their lowest possible price, often barely covering their costs. This relentless pressure on farmers jeopardizes their livelihoods, as they're forced to accept prices that barely allow them to break even. Meanwhile, the supermarket profits by selling these cucumbers across their stores with hefty markups, all while controlling prices uniformly across locations, eliminating the possibility of consumers seeking cheaper alternatives. In this scenario, the supermarket's priority is maximizing profit margins, often at the expense of farmers' well-being and the sustainability of local food systems. As new homesteaders or farmers, it's vital for us to be aware of these dynamics and explore alternative channels for selling our produce, fostering community-supported agriculture initiatives, or direct-to-consumer sales to ensure fair compensation for our efforts and contribute to a more equitable food system. Currently, farmers worldwide find themselves in disputes with their governments, feeling a lack of support for agriculture. This issue strikes me as particularly perplexing because, without farmers, we'd all be hungry, naked, and considerably sober. I reiterate this sentiment often because it holds true. Many fail to realize the essential role farming plays in our lives, dismissing concerns about environmental impact or questioning the need for farmers' support. It's frustrating to witness such sentiments, as they overlook the indispensable service farming provides. As homesteaders and small-scale farmers, we must reflect on the factors affecting our own food security. While we may aspire to have a steady supply of produce year-round, we face challenges such as seasonal fluctuations and unexpected setbacks. For instance, in the past month alone, nearly all our chickens underwent their annual molt, resulting in a significant decrease in egg production as they rejuvenate their systems for laying again. Additionally, my primary milking goat has fallen ill recently, leading to a reduction in milk production compared to the usual yield for this time of year. Regrettably, despite my efforts, her condition hasn't improved, leaving me with the prospect of relying on just one milking goat for the remainder of the season. These circumstances prompt us to consider several key factors for food security on our homesteads. We must anticipate and plan for seasonal variations in production, diversify our sources of food, and establish contingency plans for unexpected events. Moreover, fostering resilience in our livestock and crops through sustainable practices and prioritizing animal health are critical aspects to ensure a reliable food supply. In essence, while challenges may arise, it's essential for homesteaders and small farmers to remain vigilant and adaptable in safeguarding their food security. By addressing these considerations proactively, we can navigate uncertainties and sustainably meet the needs of our households and communities. So what do we need to think about? 1. Timing our Produce: - Plan breeding schedules to coincide with optimal times for birthing and raising young animals, taking into account seasonal factors such as weather and forage availability. Spring kidding works best, for weather and pasture - Consider the gestation periods and growth rates of different livestock species to ensure a steady supply of meat, milk, or eggs throughout the year. Timing the arrival of new chickens, and meat chickens so that you arent inundated but you have a good rhythm happening. 2. Preservation During Times of Feast: - Explore methods for preserving excess livestock products such as meat, milk, and eggs, including freezing, canning, drying, and fermenting. Smoked meats and salamis, canning, freezing, jerky and limeglassing eggs - Invest in equipment such as chest freezers, canning supplies, dehydrator and vacuum sealers to facilitate long-term storage of preserved products. - Develop recipes and techniques for transforming perishable livestock products into value-added products such as sausages, cheeses, and preserves. 3. Learning to Eat Seasonally: - Adapt livestock management practices to align with seasonal variations in forage quality and availability, adjusting grazing patterns and supplemental feeding as needed. - Educate customers and community members about the benefits of consuming seasonally raised and harvested meat, dairy, and eggs, emphasizing freshness, flavor, and nutritional value. - If you have the opportunity, consider collaborating with local chefs and restaurants to promote seasonal menus featuring locally sourced livestock products. 4. Understanding which Foods are Most Nutritionally Dense: - Focus on raising livestock breeds or species known for their superior meat, milk, or egg quality, prioritizing breeds with high nutritional content and flavor. The human body requires approximately 40 different micronutrients for normal metabolic function. Maximizing nutrient density should be the primary goal of our diet because deficiencies of any of these essential nutrients can contribute to the development of chronic disease and even shorten our lifespan. “Bioavailability” refers to the portion of a nutrient that is absorbed in the digestive tract and released into the bloodstream for the body’s use. The amount of bioavailable nutrients in a food is almost always lower than the amount of nutrients the food contains. For example, the bioavailability of calcium from spinach is only 5 percent. Of the 115 mg of calcium present in a serving of spinach, only 6 mg is absorbed. This means you’d have to consume 16 cups of spinach to get the same amount of bioavailable calcium in one glass of milk. (14) - Implement pasture rotation and forage management strategies to enhance the nutritional profile of grazing livestock, promoting diverse pastures rich in vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. Conventional grain-fed beef is highly nutritious, but grass-fed beef contains more carotenoids, vitamin E, and other antioxidants.