“It is not what foods you eat; but who you eat it with.”
Driving away from our processing center, trailer bumping in the sludge-filled pot holes and Morgan sniffling back tears in the passenger seat, I found this simple phrase hammering raucously in my head. In the back seat Elowyn was demanding “more wawa” and little Tecumseh loudly beckoned for his own version, but all I could hear was the empty trailer pounding against the overly-used gravel road.
Life lives on life but this was hard. To run a regenerative farm well this had to be hard. We have to care—we have to put our hearts into the thing. Moving the cows daily to fresh pasture; fighting back the forest in order to put up today’s pig fencing; moving what feels to be a million chicken tractors is so much more than simple chores. We do these things everyday, including Christmas, but every day they are special. Perhaps, increasingly so. Participating in life this fully … investing everything you have physically and emotionally into the microclimate we call ours … sometimes takes the life fully out of you. And that is okay.
“It is not your food,” yes, but perhaps it is. We always make the comment on farm tours that a regenerative life is one that healed its environment both during its life and through its death. Death is only the beginning and regeneration is the narrative.
Nature’s cyclic and beautifully regenerative patterns demand life, growth, and death to operate abundantly—to operate as it was created to do. In fact, Morgan and I argue that life and death are symbiotic—that this eternal and cyclical collaboration of life and death is not conflict but context.
For the microbial world, yesterday’s litter (decomposing organic/dead matter) is today’s feast; this energy passes through a banquet of interconnected communities and prepares the way for the vegetative world’s sustenance and growth; this recycled and sun-kissed energy is then transferred to grazing herbivores (grazing on grass) and humans (eating a carrot) who kill the vegetation and extract the minerals and nutrients harvested initially by the microbial world and because of yesterday’s death; lastly are the predators, who eat those who eat the vegetation. This Energy Pyramid—to use Allan Savory’s terminology—is the basis of life.
What is the difference between a carrot and a cow? Nutritionally, there is variation; but what is the difference? Energy flowing through this pyramid does not discriminate. Why should we?
Without decay we would have no development. Modern chemical and mono-crop agriculture kills billions of living organisms (including humans) unethically, without cause and outside of nature’s cycle. It kills to kill and kills in the name of control. Regenerative agriculture is an attempt at a life-saving paradigm shift. But regenerative agriculture takes a gut. As I said, investing fully in life sometimes takes the life fully out of you.
“…but who you eat it with,” yes, but perhaps this is the same thing. Perhaps, when your food is a story of love, regeneration, abundance, and true wealth—not an abused and manufactured product—, such a feast becomes a part of your narrative. If your food could speak—and don’t equate this phrase with only animal agriculture … all life speaks—what would it say? Viewed from this perspective, our dinner tables become fuller than we ever imagined—we need to get more chairs. We are surrounded by life and that is okay.
“It is not your food, but who you eat it with.” Yes, that is what I said. Cherish your food as though it was fully yours. Honor it, because, no matter what you think, you are its … and that is okay.
Today, we processed a cow. Morgan cried and my head drummed. We felt ridiculous—but just for a moment. We had put our heart and soul in this life in order to regenerate it and in order to foster new life. Today, we celebrate life—life in the fullest sense. Today, we celebrate the hard days—those that bring to fruition the better days … because, to be regenerative, carrots and cows, grass and bugs—LIFE—must die. And that is okay.
The real question, that which lifted our ridiculousness as we drove away, is this: how do we treat the life at our table?