I was talking to my kids (in the car, where we do our best talking - all facing the same direction somehow facilitates conversations), explaining to my son that he needed to find a ride to his wrestling tournament. I told him that I would normally be his transport, and not miss it for the world (we'll go later that morning), but that some folks were coming to get a quick tour of the "farm".
I heard the disparaging tone in the repeated word, "Farm..." (I was spared the eye-roll because, as I said, we were in the car, all facing forward . Thank goodness. Eye-rolls drive me bananas.)
My reply was, "To people who live in cities, having chickens and sheep is a farm. Even if we know better."
It made me think that even though we've been on these 7.5 acres for nearly 16 years now, usually with some kind of livestock - horses, chickens - it was the sheep that made it feel like a "farm". I remember as my husband was videoing our first lambs, he said, "Now, it feels like a real farm."
I suppose real farmers or ranchers would get a good laugh at us. We both grew up in the suburbs, really; I, at least, was exposed to horses through riding lessons, earning lessons through stall cleaning and feeding. But, we are certainly nowhere near where I would like to be with producing our own food. Some weeks, we do better than others.
85% of the food eaten on the Big Island is imported. This is the biggest island and fairly sparsely populated when taken as a whole. There is a lot of land available for food production - even large cattle ranges. It seems both shameful and scary to me that such a large percentage of our food is imported.
I had a Big Island rancher sit down with me at a family dinner and explain the economics of beef production in Hawaii. It is cheaper to ship off the yearlings to the mainland to be finished in feed lots on the cheaper grain there then it is to raise a steer to market weight purely on grass. Grain doesn't grow well here, so if you wish to put on the rapid weight gain grain gives - you would either need to import the grain at high fuel cost or ship the cow to eat cheaper grain. It takes twice as long to finish a steer on grass alone.
There is a relatively vocal and growing push for "eating local". This has undertones it may not have for people outside of Hawaii, but taken at face value - eating food that is produced in the Islands, including grass fed beef is becoming somewhat popular. It is also somewhat elite, unless you grow your own, because locally produced vegetables and meats are often sold at a premium in natural food stores. The Big Island is fortunate to have many, many farmer's markets - although I have heard rumors that not all that lovely produce is actually grown locally, that some of it is shipped in by wholesalers from Asia.
Beyond all the fad-like rhetoric, the political overtones, what have you, the fact is that for my family, eating local is a matter of economy. I honor all my other commitments, like paying my mortgage, buying gas so I can get to work, feeding my animals, keeping the lights on, etc., first; the food budget is what's left over.
That means when someone asks me what I am doing this weekend and I say, "Probably gardening and baking," what she hears and what I mean aren't probably the same thing.