Tag Archives: farms

Meet Your Meat

I was surprised to find how much trouble one simple question caused Sarah Agudo in her neighborhood of the Mission District in San Francisco. “Where does your meat come from?” In this era of Portlandia fanaticism of concern for ingredients and preparation, this little question caused panicked anxiousness.

I have worked in the industry for the last five years and it wasn’t until I moved to NYC and started working for Devon Gilroy that I asked that question of myself. Growing up in Dayton, OH meat came from supermarkets not butcher shops. These were things that existed on the coasts in big cities. Once I started asking the question I couldn’t stop. I educated myself on sourcing ingredients. I took Farm-to-Table 101, Michael Pollan’s book Omnivores Dilemma.

In this adventure of sourcing and understanding where my food comes from and how it affects the environment I became avidly aware of the impact of this question. Where does your meat come from? I jump at the chance to answer that question. It gives me a chance to share the story of our farmers, of our cows and pigs and lambs (oh my!). It’s not only important for me to use local animals, but local animals that are part of a biodynamic system of farms. Farms that understand that the grass fed cow isn’t the end result, but one part in a system of stewardship to the land. This is one of the ways that we can help secure our ability to keep producing food.

From a branding perspective farm-to-table has become the new “green” which is the new “black”. Right? Technically every restaurant is farm-to-table, the difference is the amount of steps removed from where the animal/vegetable was raised/grown until it hits the plate. I feel there are some restaurants that highlight a certain veg/animal from a farm, then supplement the rest of the menu with “normal” products. Consistency in a menu for a restaurant is an important goal for most restaurants. When patrons come in to certain places they want to know that what they ate yesterday is the same as what they are going to get today. This is at the crux of the farm-to-table restaurant. Nature doesn’t care, or even acknowledge, your preferences for what food you would like to eat today. Nature just is, and will produce certain food at certain times of the year, unless you live in an environment where your climate doesn’t vary too much. As for the rest of us, we are bound to the seasons. You want an avocado in February? You want an apple in March? Too bad! As as patrons we need to accept the seasons and not demand that our restaurants have everything we want all the time. In the winter enjoy pickled vegetables, and when the spring and summer comes those fresh vegetables will taste all the better!

Where does your meat come from? Is a question that opens a number ten can of worms. If all meat was sourced from local biodynamic sources the typical American would have to eat less of it. Yes, you would pay more. That price would be closer to the actual cost of producing that ounce of protein because the price would account for the unsubsidized cost of the energy used to raise the animal and the cost of environmental impact. Im not sure most americans are ready to give up a $1 hot dog, a $6 hamburger, or a $12 steak. Its a fundamental shift in our culture.

These are some of the reasons why “Where does your meat come from” is such a scary question. It could also be that they just don’t know, and it’s hard to admit that you don’t know something sometimes.

Why you should hire me. NOW!

I have a BFA. Everyone is saying that an MFA is the new MBA. They are partially correct. I didn’t start out as an art student, mathematics came first. Mathematics have me a way to look at the world in certain terms. It’s what I love about it. Theoretically is you knew all of the variable there isn’t a problem you can’t solve without mathematics. It gave me such certainty, until I started making art. Art was this silly world of feelings and emotions, at least that’s what I thought. I started my BFA the semester I got back from Denmark living as a pig farmer, but we will get to that. In my practice I learned that art is math and math is art (that’s a tautology).

Both art and math are governed by a base of assumptions. Math we have postulates, art we have history. Both grow from the pasts they have inverted and follow a logical progression and iterative process. The most wonderful aspect of both of these areas of study is that they can train the mind in finding solutions in not the most obvious places. That was my education, and I pushed that as hard as I could everyday I was in university.

Art was a way of receiving an assignment. Reading the instructions and limitations and bending them to my will. Most student would ask for clarification on exactly what they needed to do to fulfill the assignment. I would push and reinterpret the “guidelines” to allow me to create something outside of the usual scope of the object being created. One example of this would be a project I had in a fundamental 2d class. We had to use words to create a design. I built a flip book in flash, then wrote a program to export frames. Took each one of the frames to a printer and produced a flip book. No where I. The rules said I couldn’t, but everyone else in class had a static image.

I was a pig farmer in Denmark. In my transition between math and art in university I had the opportunity to live in Denmark for six months as a pig farmer. I had never farmed before in my life. I really hadn’t ever been to a farm either. I had the opportunity and I took it. I arrived in Denmark in July. I settled in to my room on my uncles farm that night. I woke at 5am ready to start working. I learned how to go around and make sure the pigs had water, food, the straw was dry, and they were healthy and happy. I would be working there for the next six months with my uncle and his wife, or so I thought. Roughly three weeks after being there my uncle had informed me that I would be watching the WHOLE farm by myself for ten days while he and his wife would be on a cruise. A much needed break for them.

I was quite taken aback. Knowing that they had ready booked the cruise and I didn’t have any way out of it I accepted the responsibility, and decided I had all the confidence that I would be able to do it. There really wasn’t any other option. Those ten days went fairly well except for the automatic feed system getting jammed, which I had to fix while getting directions over the phone from another farmer.

Soon enough I was working a few days on another farm. A chicken farm. Usually at the beginning of the day I would get fairly vague instructions for the tasks that needed to be done that day and was set off on my own. I learned a lot of skills working on these farms. How to repair machinery, plow a field, mend various other items, back up a tractor with a trailer on it. No matter what the job was I faked the confidence to do it, because I had spent most of my life just figuring out how to do things.

Anyway, if you are a potential employer I have never worked in a true corporate environment. What I do have is the knowledge to figure it out. A previous boss would just say, “handle it, handle it”. This was code for I know you will figure it out just don’t care how the sausage was made (something else I know how to do). I have a breadth of knowledge, and a passion for what I am doing. Hire me already

Thank you potential employers.

P.S. It’s a prerequisite your company cares about making a difference in the world.