I do quite a bit of reflecting. I am constantly asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” Not for the purpose of talking myself out of farming, but to re-affirm my goals and my passion. The task of maintaining drive and motivation is something that is constant. I am very grateful for my family and their support they give without even a seconds thought. At the end of the day I still come to the question of “Why am I doing this?” Even the most altruistic and self-sacrificing of people are doing the things that they are doing because it makes them feel good to help others. So the short and quick answer to that question is that it makes me feel good.
Good God that was a long lead up to an anti-climactic ending. You may ask, “Why is it that you are so dead set on recovering the American Mulefoot Hog?” Yes it is endangered, and yes it is on the verge of extinction, but the main reason it means so much to me is that it is a reflection of myself and my profession. There are less farmers in the US than there are prison inmates. Farmers are an endangered species. I see small farms go for sale, and the land bought up by big AG. The land becomes part of the industrial agriculture system where food is grown in one place and shipped across the country or across the world to be processed and then shipped again to people consuming it in some strange form. People are losing that opportunity to be connected with their food. They are losing the connection to the very people who grow it, and take pride in their product. As a small farmer I am less interested in growing a multi-million dollar corporation and more interested in building relationships with the people who enjoy our food. I see this pig and relate to the struggle of existence. Our fate is tied together, and the more you eat, the more we grow. The people who I turn away at the market when they hear they are eating an endangered breed of pig don’t understand that their decision to walk away from the experience is actually more damaging than if they just ignored it. This is a failure on my part for trying to connect with people through their hearts instead of their pallet.
When I ask myself, “Why do I enjoy farming?” Now that is a super deep response that now dives into my very reason for existence. I do it because it makes me feel good! I enjoy the stories people tell me of how the meat, eggs, and milk have helped them to change their diet and improve their health. It makes me feel good to help people. It also makes me feel good to cook up some Jowl also known as “Face Bacon” by some friends of ours. When I stand there at the counter and bite in to that savory slice of meat that just melts in your mouth I feel the flood of dopamine that fills me with a wonderful sense of satisfaction. The months and the years that we have put into this farm working our rear ends to the point of exhaustion all boils down to this visceral experience that helps to build my appreciation for the whole farm to fork experience. I will find myself just sitting there with my head in the clouds slowly chewing on the wonderful egg and bacon sandwich that I made with homemade bread not realizing that I probably look like some drugged up patient after having their wisdom teeth removed. I have so much respect for food that I turn my nose up to things that are empty or wasted calories. I have become a snob. No longer feeling the need to eat some 25 cent baggy of noodles and salt. No longer interested in eating hot pockets or those weird mystery meat TV dinners that everyone throws in the microwave for their lunches at work. I want something that I can mold into the most amazing meal possible. I want to learn how to properly prepare the food from an expert chef.
I can’t forget about the animals! Part of building a good food experience is knowing that the animal suffered very little. Suffering taints the flavor, and meat from an industrial plant just tastes funny to me. You may not notice it, but I do. Your experience with food may be much different than mine. That is the beauty of being a “foodie”. All I am focused on is making sure that our family (customers included) has an excellent food experience that transcends all other mediocre options. When my 1 year old rushes to my side and pulls on my pant leg pointing and grunting at that delicious piece of Jowl I am about to munch on, I will give him a piece and watch as his wonderfully exuberant reaction changes the way he experiences food for every day that comes.