Do you ever think about your food choices as you walk your grocery store aisles? I do. After returning from an Easter road trip to Colorado to see my sister and her family, a visit to our one and only local grocery store was in order. In addition to family meals, I had volunteered to cook for our son Hunter’s youth group one night.
Everything on my grocery list was stocked on our small-town grocery store shelves, including pasta, bread, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, ketchup, chocolate chips, flour, canola oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, dried cranberries, coleslaw mix, spinach, bananas, bell peppers and green onions. I had pulled out ground beef, venison cheddar brats and two whole chickens from our freezer at home to thaw. At checkout, Angie, who knows me as a “regular,” greeted my daughter Anika and me. Bill boxed up my groceries and followed me out to my vehicle.
I take my small-town grocery store for granted, just like I take Angie’s greetings in the checkout line and Bill helping me out with my groceries. Honestly, I take food choices and food security for granted. Most of us do in America. We are an affluent eating culture.
This grocery trip, I spent more than $100. There was a time in my life, 15 years ago, when I couldn’t spend more than $40 every other week to feed my son and me. I depended on my mom giving me free ground beef. As a single mom in college, I was on food stamps for a while. Even then, despite my limited income, I had an array of affordable food choices at big-town grocery stores.
As a rural food-purchasing mom, I have an abundance of food choices—and I want farmers to have the same choices in raising their crops and animals. In addition to feeding locals, farmers have to think about people far beyond their state and country borders. Affluent eaters seldom think about feeding anyone but themselves and their families, while many farmers and ranchers grow food for a hungry world.
With spring upon us, I’m an anxious farmers’ daughter as I drive by or fly over fields. As I listened to a recent evening rain, I thought of the thirsty ground as it is being seeded and planted. Spring planting marks the beginning of the growing process for hundreds of products on my small-town grocery store shelves, food I can access weekly to feed my family.
Accessibility, affordability and an array of food choices provide privileges my ancestors didn’t have.
While I enjoy growing some of our own food in the summer months, canning and freezing with my mother-in-law, I don’t have to grow everything like my ancestors did in order to survive harsh prairie winters.
My farming immigrant ancestors didn’t have seed and technology choices either. Today, most farmers in the U.S. can plant what they want, just like I can decide what to buy off my grocery store shelves. Soil, precipitation, geography, crop rotation options, market demands and prices all impact a farmer’s planting decisions. Just like access, personal preference and income impact what I buy at my local grocery store and what I can feed my family.
Rather than pitting farming/ranching or food choices against one another, let’s celebrate the freedom for farmers to choose what goes into the ground and what ends up on our grocery store shelves. If you’re a farmer, share what you do, why you do it and your passion for growing food, rather than be frustrated with sensationalized media headlines about farming practices. When you find yourself making yet another trip to the grocery store, be mindful of what it took to stock the bounty of accessible and affordable food before you.
It’s a new season to celebrate food and farming choices. I’m a proud fifth generation farmers’ daughter and a food choice mom.