Thursday, January 09, 2014

Many farmers say they lack time for healthy meals

Despite growing an abundance of healthy foods, many farmers lack the time or energy to eat properly, and opt instead for quick, often unhealthy snacks and meals, Leah Koenig reports for Modern Farmer. "Being a farmer today does remarkably little to ensure good eating. As it turns out, many of today’s farmers face the deep irony of producing beautiful fruits and vegetables for consumers while subsisting on a diet that more closely resembles a McDonald's menu than Old MacDonald’s farm."

Finding time to cook a healthy meal, or even any time at all to eat something nutritious, is the main problem, Koenig writes. "During the planting and harvest seasons the days can get extreme, stretching as long as 12 to 16 hours. Farmers who host onsite CSA [community-supported agriculture] pickups or navigate through rush hour traffic to drop produce off in nearby cities have to cater to their customer’s own hectic work schedules, which pushes off dinner prep (not to mention breakfast and lunch for the next day) until 8 or 9 p.m. at the earliest." 

As a result, many farmers are eating on the go, munching on whatever they can consume while in a vehicle or on the job, Koenig writes. Rachel Kaplan, a Massachusetts farmer, told Koenig, “At the height of the season, it is a feat in and of itself to sustain the energy to work let alone come home and start preparing food. A lot of the times cooking comes at the expense of sleep.”

Nick Hagen, a North Dakota farmer "says eating in the fields also poses logistical challenges.," Koenig writes. He told her, “Throughout our wheat or sugar beet harvests, there is no time to stop for lunch. I typically have one hand on the tractor’s steering wheel all day, and fish around in my lunch box with the other." He said, “You see a lot of running to the gas station for chips, soda and coffee, which helps farmers stay awake during the crazy hours.”

While the traditional farming family included a family member who stayed in the home preparing meals while others worked the land, that option isn't always available today, Koenig writes. "If a farm is set up so that the whole family works in the fields, or one spouse works a supplementary job, those systems can break down quickly." And having an immediate or extended family on the farm is not an option for many young farmers who left urban life in order to farm.

Some people, like Washington potato and onion farmers Greg and Cari Horning, find creative ways to continue to eat healthy by using their tractor as an oven, Koenig writes. Greg told her, “I wrap a spud in foil, or just put it fresh from the ground onto the exhaust manifold. The manifold can be extremely hot, so it doesn’t take long to cook.” Others, like Kaplan, are "considering offering a food prep work share to their CSA members. Instead of volunteering at a CSA distribution or in the fields, the members would spend a few hours each week during the season preparing meals for the staff. These innovations help, but it still takes serious and surprising dedication to eat well as a farmer." (Read more)

No comments: