Now and then, I get this question. I can understand why people would be curious to know what the organic farmers eat (besides vegetables!).
Some think we’re self sufficient (we’re not!), but vegetables are only one of many food groups, and besides the eggs our ducks produce, we don’t really have much else (meat, legumes, grains, fats, dairy etc).
I guess the diet that our habits come closest to, is Nourishing Traditions (you may have read or heard of the book by Sally Fallon). We’re not 100% followers of this, but the general principles are definitely guidelines we use at Birdsong. We activate/soak our nuts, make ferments, eat seasonally, make bone broth, do our own dressings and sauces (to a point, I’ve never tried making my own soy sauce for example!) and eat organically as possible.
I also get asked if we eat only organic food. Almost, but not quite. It’s mostly organic, but there are 8 in our family, and some products we eat (like cream and cheese) that can be found in Toowoomba organically, are in such tiny and expensive portions that it’s not viable for us. When we go out for dinner at friend’s places, we eat what they’ve prepared for us with thankfulness…I don’t go checking to see if all the ingredients are organic! I’ve heard of people who get that obsessive, and it can be detrimental to relationships when it gets to the point that people can’t invite you over because you won’t eat their food and they possibly can’t afford to feed everyone organic.
We do eat meat, and sometimes it’s organic, sometimes just free range (when buying chicken I’m more particular about this) and when I buy in bulk I like to make sure it’s local. Like we’ll buy a side of beef from Bannock Brae (not organic but do grow their own feed for the cattle), who are neighbours of good friends of ours, and a family run business.
We do eat gluten/bread, rice and pasta (always organic at home). I was gluten intolerant for two years, in which we hardly ever had gluten in the house, but now that I’ve healed, we do buy bulk organic/biodynamic wheat flour to bake with. We don’t usually make our own loaves of bread (though the children love making their own naan, pita, wraps etc) and I’m so thankful the supermarket has certified organic bread at a reasonable price! Homemade bread is beautiful, but I’m not superwoman and can’t do everything. We make a LOT of food from scratch, but bread was one of those things we decided to just buy, rather than be subjected to the stress of trying to keep up with making it!
Nuts we eat, and always organic. Nuts are not always sprayed with pesticides/insecticides from my understanding, but I know they use fungicides, and they’re no good for your gut and health either. So we only buy organic nuts, and then activate them (soak for about 12 hours then put through a dehydrator until crispy to neutralise the physic acid).
Eggs are another one we definitely eat, and usually from our own backyard where the birds are fed an organic diet, drink clean bore/rain water and free range in a paddock. If I have to buy eggs, we get organic or at least free range. You can find documentaries about the conditions caged birds suffer, and I don’t believe the meat or eggs from birds treated like that and subjected to so much stress should be consumed by humans.
Dairy…we eat that too. Organic milk, butter and yogurt (unhomogenised where possible) are pretty easy to source. I’d love to have our own house cow so we could make our own dairy products, but the lack of land here doesn’t allow for it! Like I mentioned above, cream and cheese are two products I don’t usually buy organically.
Vegetables…lots of them! We eat these seasonally, because I think it’s backwards to have a paddock full of produce and then go and buy produce that we’re not growing (and I know even most organic produce doesn’t come from soil as nurtured as Rick’s). The exception to this is fruit, because we hardly grow any fruit, and with 6 children, we go through plenty of it. I’m thankful for people like Dennis from Gran Elly Orchard who grow fruit with similar soil nutrition to our vegetables. But there’s no way I’d go and buy something like broccoli if it’s out of season. We’ll just eat what is available.
I do a lot of canning, so I guess it would be more accurate to say the FRESH produce we eat is seasonal, but then in summer for example, we produce a LOT of tomatoes, and I work overtime trying to preserve/can as many as possible into sauces, sun-drieds, pastes etc so that all winter we can cook with our own tomato products. Last summer corn was abundant too, so I canned a lot of that. In winter we make sauerkraut (when there’s enough cabbage! This year it was a bit sparse).
We don’t meal plan. I’ve tried that before, and it did save time years ago. But now we’re in this unique situation where we grow a lot of produce, and have a cold room for storage and buy floors, nuts, seeds etc in bulk. Plus all those home-canned goods are on the shelf. So I find that there’s a lot of raw materials to work with, and a meal can always be created with what’s on hand.
I guess the last thing that comes to mind is sugar. We use organic coconut sugar, organic maple syrup, our own honey from the hive out the back and sometimes some organic cane sugar (some recipes need something lighter than coconut sugar). I try to limit it a bit, and especially cut back if using a baking recipe. Often we can halve the sugar in a recipe and still find it’s sweet enough!
So there you go, a little look at what we eat at Birdsong.