Renee and I knew that when we shared these events that there would be mixed opinions. We talk about these things as a family before we share them on social media as it very much opens our families choices up for scrutiny. The Barry Farm is moving away from the standard grab bag of marketing terms that farms are encouraged to use as we have found some of those terms to be counter productive. In fact we what we have found to be most effective is to speak less and and act more, letting our actions be a better reflection than our explanation of those actions. Thus our tag line of ” The Barry Farm….acting naturally” .
We were given a turkey for thanksgiving by a great friend and partner of The Barry farm, but it came live and in all his beautiful strutting tom glory. Yesterday evening the whole family took part in the process of killing, plucking, scalding, and gutting the turkey that will be our thanksgiving meal. We did this with respect for the whole situation and I very much took on a teachers heart with the kids as I instructed them on the process and what to expect. The past few thanksgivings have had turkeys on the table that were raised and processed by ourselves here on the farm. What is not evident to the casual observer but that our family sees is that this time of year we get a truck load of emails that ask us to sell them turkeys that were raised on pasture. On the flip side we do get the response from time to time of “I just don’t know how you could eat a turkey that you killed yourself”. The smith family has lived in the tension between those sentiments since we began to farm some 4 years ago. Never would we intentionally want to offend people who object to consuming animal protein and we don’t make choices haphazardly and understand that this can be a sensitive subject to some. A phase was coined to bridge the gap in this conversation that goes something like this ” you shouldn’t eat it unless you are willing to kill it”. Implying that we should not be eating meat unless we are capable of thinking through the entire cost of an animals last moments. In my most humble opinion these are my thoughts on the subject: First when it comes to emotional decisions we should be the instigator of grace. Let people have the opinions they want to have. They come from places formed from their own experience, reading, research, marketing and goals. Secondly. I have adopted the previous position from an acknowledgement of an underlying principal that applies to my family. We have learned that all living things have value and to order some as important and some not is a dangerous game. Our process of learning to work very closely with nature and our farm has taught us not to separate things into individual silos of thought or action. My generation and culture is very good at this and are very quick to try to reduce things to the least common denominator. The farmer that thinks we can separate people from pastures, grasses from ruminants, soil from insects, and farm from community is a very naive farmer indeed. And in that context I address the eating of animals. We kill and eat animals in this family because we also nurture the soil that builds the grass and forage they eat. We manage the grazing of those grasses and monitor the farms health and balance daily. The Smith family is comfortable known that we are all sacrificing together on this farm. The plants that are eaten by the animals and us sometimes die. The soil will change in response to this action too. And sometimes animals die so that we may also be nourished. The mantra of “you should’t eat it if you won’t kill it” is a baby step to appreciating animals relationship to ours because one can still recognize the intricate balance and observe the relationship all living things have to each other without having to “kill” something to prove it. This farmer for one believes you can be conscientious without desiring to cut a turkeys throat. That you can be empathetic but let others do it for you. That ending life only acknowledges a portion of the process, and ignores the big picture. The big picture is that life that was taken has reciprocal effects on people, farms and communities and that the effects should be taken more seriously than the action itself. We would all be wise to see our choices when it comes to food and family to see a bigger picture that recognize our interdependence and to nurture those relationships.