By Joel Salatin, 2012
Larder. That's not a word you hear too much today. Do you have one? Our grandparents invested heavily in stocking their larder. Supermarkets did not exist until 1946. Before then, a household's food was stored in the domestic larder. In those days, any person wishing to see a community's food stash could find it nestled securely in the home larder. Today, we don't have larders. We scarcely have pantries. The stash is in a warehouse several hundred miles away from where we live . . . and eat.
This new reality is unhealthy both individually and culturally. Food stored miles away in a warehouse is more vulnerable to bio-terrorism. To be handled in that volume for that distance it must be lifeless. Hard handling requires that the food be stabilized either with artificial, unpronounceable additives or by strategically removing its living components. By manipulating it to lifelessness, manufacturers reduce spoilage risk.
Of course that far-away food is part of a grand opaque system, full of patents, intrigue, "No Trespassing" signs, security officers and employee identification necklaces. Indeed, if you have to don a hazardous materials suit and walk through sheep dip to visit your food, you might not want to eat it.
Home larders preserved, prepared, and packaged with domestic culinary skill take on nearly mystical and spiritual qualities. Most thinking people have a gnawing intuition that what we call modern America is teetering on a precarious precipice. Teenagers today don't believe they will live as long, be as healthy, or have the economic advantages that their parents enjoyed. This is the first downturn generation.
Many people genuinely fear the future. Against that backdrop, however, a personally-aggregated, well-stocked in-home larder offers soul-level soothing. Since food is perhaps the most primal human need, its scarcity or security profoundly affects our emotional stability. Surrounding our living spaces with integrity food can do more to create optimism and hope for tomorrow than any other single activity.
The average American male aged 24-35 now spends 20 hours per week playing video games. This represents an unprecedented escapism and a significant cheapening of pleasure. What can be more pleasurable than peering into a loaded larder, counting canning jars full of applesauce, pickled beets, green beans and various meats? Knowing our food's source, the land that grew it, the farmer who massaged that land, the texture, aroma, and nutrient density contained in each morsel packed away for tomorrow--this is pleasure.
That millions of American males in their most virulent time of life seek pleasure in a push-button meaningless cyber-space fantasy should scare thinking people to death. Is reality so horrible that we dare not participate in solving the problems of our day? Truly, many of us feel overwhelmed with looming crises, from the economy to energy to resources. And yet, the current state of affairs is simply a manifestation, a composite, of billions of individual decisions.
Do I play video games or visit a farm? Do I go on a Caribbean cruise, or can applesauce for winter? Do I micro-wave Digornio's frozen pizza, or throw a chicken in the slow cooker? Do I eat Cheerios for breakfast and then hit the vending machine at 10 a.m., or cook real eggs and sausage that will fuel my body until supper? Do I go out to McDonald's for lunch, or eat my leftovers from last night's made-from-scratch dinner?
Look around you. What you see is a compilation of these decisions. The temptation is to blame someone else. The temptation is to assume that everything would be different, would be better, if other people made better decisions. But how do other people make better decisions? They need examples. They need leaders. They need object lessons. They need coaches.
This year, 2012, Polyface wants to be your larder coach. This will be the year of participation. Ultimately, "they" and "them" and "those people" don't exist; it's only us. Perhaps the single largest causative agent in precipitating our plethora of crises is our culture's crisis of participation. We have collectively approached life with the assumption that we're more intelligent, technological, and smarter than any civilization so we'll be able to sail off into a Star Trek nirvana freed from the mundane moorings of our ecological umbilical.
Only a fool would think like this. The thinking person understands the security and sustainability of nestling into our ecological womb with the participatory connections that have occupied the attention of all our forebears. For all our cleverness, we are still absolutely and completely dependent on the earth, the sun, and the bounty they produce.
Knowing that reconnecting is difficult, Polyface yearns to help you into a participatory lifestyle. A foundational part of that is in restoring your domestic larder. Hence, we want to be your Larder Coach. The most visible aspect of this encouragement is our decision to create far more separation between bulk prices, pre-order prices, and by-the-piece prices.
To be sure, we appreciate every customer, from small purchasers to large purchasers. But at the risk of offending some people, we need to reward the larder-developers. The local food system, from farmers like Polyface to farmers' market vendors actually has a significant number of what we call nibblers. Whether it's a token purchase for guilt assuagement ("see, I'm participating in local food because I bought a pack of hot dogs") or an inability to plan ahead, or some other reason, these hand-to-mouth customers need an incentive to move into the larder-developers. What better incentive than economic?
With that in mind, you will see an unprecedented attempt on our part to offer volume discounts. The difference in price between spur-of-the-moment single items and plan-ahead-for-the-larder multi-items or bulk volumes will be far more than you've ever seen. We hope that this change in pricing structure will help more folks to get into the game instead of sitting on the bleachers.
Historically, a larder included the whole array of household foods: root cellar for cool keepers like winter squash, potatoes, cabbage, and carrots; canned goods for pickled, fermented, and more perishable things like green beans, salsa, relish, and applesauce; smoked, salted, or dried (jerky) meats--today, we use freezers; dried goods like grains to be milled as needed; aged cheese; wines.
Polyface patrons have always stepped up to the plate when the game became more serious. You will see food prices escalate in the coming months. Here on the farm we're looking at innovative feed alternatives. It is incumbent on all of us to really get into the "healing the planet one bite at a time" game--or ministry, as some call it. Nibblers and tasters need to jump in--and we're here to help you. We'll be sharing recipes.
We've brainstormed a whole list of coaching opportunities, from demos to networking. Although we can't institute all of them immediately, we hope to roll them out, at least in prototype form, as the year progresses. Part of this game includes patrons helping with inventory balance. We may well run specials from time to time and hope you'll jump on those as ways to restock your larder.
In uncertain times, imagine your home nestled in abundance. Surrounded by integrity food, you enjoy a soul-level satisfaction--pleasure--wrapped in the earth's nurturing provision. That is a balm. It touches us deeply, profoundly, with a hopeful, optimistic mindset. Surely nestling ourselves in a womb of abundance is more pleasurable than attaining level 5 on Angry Birds. Here at Polyface, we covet real pleasure for you and hope you'll let us be your Larder Coach in this year of participation. Thank you.