I started my first compost bin about 5 years ago. I remember it was a reaction to noticing that almost all of what I was throwing in the trash was organic material because I was making an effort to eat healthier. Starting that compost bin greatly reduced the amount of trash I was throwing away every week. I started being more conscious about recycling and not buying products wrapped in unnecessary packaging as a challenge to see just how much I could reduce my weekly trash.
At the same time my efforts to eat healthier were steering me toward the local farmer’s markets in search of fresher foods. I found a real joy in connecting with seasonal local produce and rediscovered my love of cooking. I began buying fewer “products” and buying more produce. I also made my first poor, fumbling attempts at growing my own garden. It would be a couple more years before I was able to try it again with any success.
The wheels had been set in motion. I was proud of my cooking, the freshness of the food and the amazing reduction in waste that went out the door. It changed the way I looked at consumption in general and has forever changed the way I look at my relationship with the food system.
In the Transition
This weekend my wife and I headed to cooler temperatures for an impromptu camping trip and I spent Saturday preparing some food for us to pack. There was a time when this meant a trip to the store for bottles of water, beer and soda, bags of chips and maybe a box of Mac n Cheese and some hot dogs to roast over the fire. I probably would have grabbed a few packaged, pre-cut veggies just to make me feel better about my choices. It was the typical sort of thing most people would grab without too much thought for a weekend of camping.
Over the last few years my decisions about food have changed. The things I consider when buying products or preparing food are much different now. For our trip I made breakfast burritos with locally grown potatoes, fresh organic eggs and home-made tortillas. I made potato salad with the same local potatoes, peppers from my garden and home-made mayonnaise. We brought beer as well, but most of what we brought was from one of our favorite local breweries. We also filled a handful of reusable bottles with water and ice for the trip. For the most part I knew where all my food had come from and the only waste went into compost.
I’m not completely there yet, I wish I could say I was. While this was pretty typical for us we still have our share of things we buy because it’s easier. But as we make more and more choices in the right direction, we’re getting closer to our own ideal. Making decisions to buy local fresh ingredients, prepare our own food, and avoid wasteful purchases like bottled water and pre-packaged foods means we are moving closer to that life of sustainability and connected self-reliance we strive for.
Between Two Worlds
I grew up in the agricultural center of California surrounded by small, private farms. I have fond memories from my childhood of walking the edges of the local fields with my grandmother picking fresh strawberries after school or on weekends. By the time we moved, Big Ag had consolidated most of the farm land, fenced it in and doused it with chemicals. I left a valley of farm land that was no longer a farming community.
I spent my teenage years in a small coastal town in Northern California where everyone knew their neighbor and small businesses supported the economy. As kids we would roam through the large undeveloped tracts of forest land having grand adventures and picking wild berries. By the time I moved most of the forest had been cleared for development and Walmart and Home Depot were putting the mom-and-pop operations out of business. I left one of the most beautiful areas in the US to move to the big city and build a career in Architecture and Design.
My time in the city left me feeling confined and exhausted. My mind and heart wanted small-town simplicity and a connection with nature, but my career choice (and passion) had anchored me to an ever expanding concrete jungle. I’ve struggled against this dichotomy for nearly 20 years. A few years ago, things finally started to click.
Shaping my Independence
I think my wife and I talk about where our future is headed every single day. Even if it’s simply looking at potential properties for our homestead we are actively planning, discussing and shaping our future together. The more we talk about it, the closer it gets to becoming a reality. In the mean time, I am working to build the skills and habits that will allow us to live independent of the commercialized food, power and water industries. It is my belief that food will get worse before it gets better, that the power industry will not make the shift to solar fast enough and water (especially here in the southwest) will be something people fight and die over.
Don’t mistake this for prepping. My actions are not fueled by fear of some collapse or civil unrest, they are fueled by a desire to have control over my own destiny. When you buy into the Food Industry, you are accepting their terms. When you buy into the electrical grid, you are accepting their terms. When you are depend on public water, you are subject to their mismanagement and corruption of the resource.
I don’t believe it will be easy, and I don’t believe it will happen over-night. But we will work our way into a life that does not rely on big industries for our survival. We will be Modern Steaders.
– August 15, 2014
Co-Founder, Modern Steader
Grow. Cook. Live.