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Grow local

08/06/07 5:55PM By Mary Barrosse-Schwartz

(HOST) Taking a temporary localvore pledge wasn't enough for the family of commentator Mary Barrosse Schwartz. Their commitment to localism has inspired an updated version of the family farm.  

(BARROSSE) I've become a cranky consumer. I'm not optimistic that we'll continue to get safe foods from global sources. The poisoning of foods from China rang alarm bells for me. And certainly over reliance on fuel sources from overseas has landed us in very difficult times internationally.

Within this country, the quality of our meat supply is questionable. Downer cattle, animals too sick to walk to slaughter, are still processed and sold to the public. This year, even U.S. produced organic vegetables showed up in markets, contaminated with E. coli.

Until fairly recently, food sources were mostly local.  During World War I and II, it was necessary to produce food locally since the railroads were already stressed with other transportation needs. Many Vermonters still remember their victory gardens in that era, grown to reduce the pressure on the public food supply.

Today, we rely on a global economy, in which we see very little risk.  9/11 shook us up, but with no major attacks in the US since then; many of us have been lulled back into thinking that the risk is now all overseas. Last year's bird flu scare generated some alarm, but once again a false sense of security seems to be settling in. My husband and I think that's a big mistake, so we've started using the 22 acres of Vermont land and the great old barn we own, to begin small-scale farming for our own use - despite the fact that neither of us enjoyed the benefit of being raised around farming.

Now, after 18 months, we have 2 Irish Dexter miniature cows. We are also raising 2 heifer calves, and we have 4 heirloom variety hogs, Italian bees, and along with the standard varieties, a few Egyptian chickens. In addition, we maintain a sizable vegetable garden, now excellently pollinated by our bees. As we learn about tending our own animals and crops, we've sought out advice from local farmers.

It's been a challenge learning how to raise more of our own food, but we've found that most experienced farmers are very willing to share their knowledge - even though in our part of southern Vermont there aren't that very many dairy and vegetable farmers left.

And now when we need to buy pork, beef, chicken, baked goods or vegetables, we use local sources. It sometimes costs a little more, but we're confident that we're getting more wholesome food. We also know that we must support local agriculture for Vermont to stay green.

This is my family's answer to globalism: our food may include heritage and world varieties, but we'll raise it in our own backyard and buy from local sources.

Mary Barosse Schwartz is a children's advocate and consultant living in East Dorset.
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