I finished reading a fellow Hamline MFA-grad’s memoir called Locally Laid, named after the chicken farm she and her husband began out of the blue. (Literally out of the blue—neither had ever worked or possibly even been on a farm before, the way it sounds.) This book was perfect for me, as it fits both my new read-my-peers reading goal and my older read-everything-related-to-autism-and-or-also-the-food-movement goal. Locally Laid declares the agricultural system in America broken and goes one step further—the author and her husband are actually trying to fix the system by bringing back “middle ag.”
And god love them for it. It’s hard enough for my family to buy sustainable food, let alone raise it.
In her memoir, reluctant farmer Lucie Amundsen delves into the many ways Big Ag is broken and unhealthy and why eggs from pasture-raised local chickens are better and healthier—both for people and for the planet. In a friendly and funny voice that makes complex issues accessible, Amundsen explains why she and her husband want to transform the way we grow food and eat food.
As it’s January, there’s a lot of attempts at transformations going on. Another of my Hamline friends has started the Whole 30 diet as a New Year’s resolution. Not just because she wants to lose weight, but more importantly, she says, she needs an “internal transformation.” A young wife and mother, 2016 hit her family with an enormous amount of challenges and pain, and toward the end of the year she found herself defeated but depressed. Not even her church was providing her comfort anymore, and she felt “so heavy, dense with emotions … I don’t want to just lose the weight and be back here in a year, and for that, I know something in my insides has to give. I need more than a physical transformation. I need something deeper.”
I make New Year’s resolutions, too, though they’re usually more of the “be more patient” variety rather than the “completely transform myself” type. When I decided to wean myself off sugar, gluten, and processed foods and embrace real-food cooking, it wasn’t prompted by a new year, and it certainly took longer than a year. In fact, even though it’s gotten much easier, it’s still challenging, and I wouldn’t say I’ve come out the other side. I still struggle to stick to the choices I’ve made.
I used to think of transformations as monumental events, as a strike of lightning, an election, a birth, a vacation to a foreign land, with clear beginnings and clear endings. As in, this is when transformation strikes. But now I’m not so certain. I suspect Amundsen would say she hasn’t come out the other side of the chicken farm journey—she and her husband are, after all, still farming and presumably still dealing with fresh challenges. My Whole30 friend will experience a kick-start toward healthier living, but I doubt anyone says, “There! All better!” at the end of a month. Her work of maintaining healthy habits, Amundsen’s work of farming, and my work of learning to cook continues. And somewhere within that work, impossible to pinpoint, transformation grows.
My friend’s goal to not just lose weight but truly fix herself internally is the same as mine was, and, on a much larger scale, Locally Laid’s goal is much the same—trying to heal the country’s food system from the inside. Their stories give me hope. So many people care about how food is grown and raised, what we consume, and how it all connects us. Despite all our current disturbing politics, I am still hopeful the country also may be in the midst of a transformation, one too large and slow to pinpoint. And I’m hopeful everyone’s individual transformation will help nurture and grow the nation’s.
So cheers to everyone working on New Year’s resolutions!