The Gift of Food…

There are days when I worry about making my payroll and keeping my farming business financially sustainable.  There are days when I worry about how Matt and I will pay for all three of our daughters to go to the college of their choice, loan free (which both Matt and I were blessed to be able to do).

There have never been days (in all of my almost 37 years) where I have worried about how I would get food to feed myself and my family.

She is blessed to have never known what it is like to be without food...

Matt’s and my farm is a modern farm, and like many farmers in the United States, the fruits of our labor will feed not only our family but also thousands of other people all around the world.  In a normal twelve month cycle, I ship between 5000 and 5500 animals to harvest.  It takes only one of those animals to feed my family for a year.  The other 4999 animals feed people who spend their lives doing something other than farming and growing food.  Without me, you do not eat.  Without you, I am not blessed with many of the other perks and necessities that fill my life.

He will feed my family for a full year...

It is a system of teamwork; one that enables each American to use their individual talents to bring to fruition the American Dream.

I had never seen subsistence farming until I traveled to Kenya.  Webster defines subsistence as the minimum (as of food and shelter) necessary to support life.  While not all farming in Kenya is subsistence farming, this is the way of life for many Kenyans.

Small plot of farmed land...

Small plots of land tilled, planted, weeded, and harvested by hand marked the countryside.

A woman harvesting by hand...

Small groups of livestock, either herded by a family member or tethered by a rope on the side of the road to graze, were common.

A cow, tethered (on a rope leash) along the side of the road, to graze for the day...

A group of livestock, out to graze for the day, herded by a couple of young men...

Any additional bounty was hauled (predominantly by hand) to local markets to be sold.

Produce, bagged and waiting on the side of the road, to be transported manually to the market...

Some is transported by walking, some by bike, and some by livestock cart...

A roadside market...

The unemployment rate in Kenya is higher than 40% and there is not government assistance to those who do not have a job.  Consequently, large family groups work as a team to create the necessary resources for subsistence.  There are many that, unlike me, worry about what they will eat for the next meal.

Any of you who have a vegetable garden know how much work goes into growing food.  The last couple of years, I have been on a mission to teach my children how to grow their own garden.  My single largest challenge has been motivating them to do the “grunt” work of weeding.  They just plain do not want to work that hard because they know that they can always go inside to the refrigerator and effortlessly find food to eat.  My children have never been hungry.

Imagine growing all of your food by hand (no tiller, no planter, no mechanized way to weed, no sprinklers to water with, no mechanized way to harvest, no car to use to transport the excess to market or to a friend or family member that you share with).  Imagine spending your morning milking a cow or goat, then walking a mile to the stream to gather water, then spending your afternoon planting/weeding/harvesting your garden.  Hunger is a powerful motivator.

A fence made out of thorny bushes which encloses a Samburu village. Livestock are brought inside of the fence at night to protect them from predators. At night, the cattle are free roaming around the village, the goats are placed in small pens within the village perimeter...In the morning, the men take the livestock out to graze after the women have milked them. The women then walk to gather water for the day...This group of semi-nomadic people eat only meat, milk, and chocolate milk (milk mixed with cow blood). They do not raise crops.

Kenya (like the United States) is seeing a large influx of population shift from the rural areas to the city.  Young people are looking for a different life than the one described above.  The challenge then becomes creating a farming system to feed 40 million people when much of the farming is still done by hand.  As we drove across the central part of the country, I saw some large “European style” crop farms that looked quite a bit like my husband’s farm.

Acres tilled, planted, maintained, and harvested by machinery (like we do on our farm)...

I also saw some huge greenhouses dotted along the countryside (cut flowers exported to Europe is one of the largest industries in the country).

Tucked behind the trees, these modern greenhouses are used to grow flowers for export...

But, intermixed between these, were many more subsistence farms.

These goats provide both meat and milk to a family...

There is a big debate going on in our country right now about what type of farming is best.  Is it modern farming?  Is it local farms and markets?  Is it organic farming?  Is it some combination? While this issue is very complex, my trip to Kenya reinforced in my mind that hunger is still an issue.  With a growing world population and a limited number of natural resources, as a farmer, I must continue to strive to do a better job just plain feeding people.

Instead of getting caught up in philosophical issues about what type of food is best, I need to be eternally thankful that I have never wondered what I would feed my children for dinner. 

There are many people both in this country and around the world who do not have that luxury.  As a farmer, I can work to make that better…

It will be very interesting to watch my girls this summer with our vegetable garden to see if the trip to Kenya taught them anything about appreciating and growing food…

 

 

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under Family, Foodie Fun!, General

10 responses to “The Gift of Food…

  1. dawn

    I love knowing where my food comes from. We raise our own beef, pork, lamb, chickens for eggs, and vegetables and fruits, as a “hobby”. We all work outside the home, so it is an exhausting task to undertake in one’s “spare” time. And we by no means meet all of our needs. But it is highly satisfying to sit down at a meal and say “all of this is the fruit of OUR labor”. I’ve tried to instill this into my three children, providing them with the KNOWLEDGE to feed themselves, believing circumstances will provide the WILL.

    • Dawn,
      I hope that I can instill the “will” into my children as well! I also find it really empowering when I can put together a dinner that was completely “home raised”. It provides me with a tremendous amount of satisfaction.

      Anne

  2. Bill

    What? You mean food doesn’t come from the bounty of the Mylar God?!

    Great post. I guess the luxury of eating well rests on an individual’s level of hunger. People that eat only meat and milk? That’s pretty tough. It must be hard on their teeth.

    • Interestingly, there is a tree in this part of Kenya called the “Camels Thorn Acasia Tree”, and the Samburu and Maasai people use the thorns from the tree to clean their teeth.

      Indeed, it is a very different life from the one that any of us lead.

      Anne

  3. Nebraska Farm Wife

    I couldn’t imagine putting all of my trust in a fence made of thorn bushes to keep my cattle and myself safe at night. I worry about our livestock safety most nights. I have even gone out at 2 am to double check the gate that I triple checked before I came in that night.

    • I can empathize with you as I have done the same with our gates! Quite honestly, life is so different for these Kenyans that it is incredibly difficult to comprehend without seeing it first hand. It was truly an eye opening experience for me.

      Anne

  4. Your posts about Kenya have been wonderful to read! What a great gift for your whole family to do this together! We visited eastern Africa 2 years ago and had many of the same feelings as you express. Your pictures show a much greener landscape though. When we visited, most of the areas (especially Samburu and Amboseli) were suffering from severe drought. It’s such an interesting and amazing place to visit! Please share more pictures and more thoughts.

    • Hi Crystal:

      I am so glad that you have enjoyed my Kenya posts. I will be transitioning back into more posts about my cattle farm for future posts, but I will also continue to post regarding Kenya as I am able to draw comparisons with my life on a farm in Nebraska. Look for more Kenya pictures and information in the near future!

      Thanks for following my posts,
      Anne

  5. Herbert C Gibson

    Anne: Good comparison and observation with great philosophy blended in the mix. Your conclusions are sound on all fronts. Dad

  6. The diversity within one country is unbelievable. Subsistence farming and nomadic life style interwoven with modern food production and technology. It amazes me that these two practices can boarder each other.

    Anne, I agree with your Dad. Excellent job emphasizing the importance and the reality that farmers and ranchers are feeding a growing population and, at the same time, fighting tooth and nail to do so. It seems funny that those who feed the world have to live by the rules of those who have never been hungry and have limited knowledge about how food is produced.

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