Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. Ever heard of it? Today I went there on a tour with my Girl Scout Troop. This place is devoted to a cause I find myself thinking about a lot these days: Stone Barns’ mission is to create a healthy and sustainable food system that benefits us all. I think a lot about this because I feel that in the last 100 years or so -- in an attempt to get bigger, better, faster – we as people have created a monster of a food system that sucks the life out of the earth and feeds us chemical-laden mutant derivatives of what used to be considered food.
Anyway, on the tour, we viewed the various farm fields and learned about how these farmers really give consideration to the life of the soil: not bleeding it of its micro-organisms, not poisoning it with chemicals, curtailing erosion and cleverly minimizing pests in only the most natural of ways (like sending the turkeys in to eat the bugs).
We viewed pens of sheep, chicken, geese and pigs. Our guide informed us that these were all “heritage” animals in that they are breeds that were around before humans started playing Mother Nature and breeding mutants that would provide more meat (but can’t actually walk while they are alive), etc.
We viewed greenhouses that only grow seasonal vegetables, so that the farmers don’t have to artificially heat the environment. The purpose of these greenhouses is to extend the New York growing season, not redefine it – as in no strawberries in January!
We learned about the many experiments the Center is doing – always with an eye toward good health (for the animals as well as us humans), good science, and what’s good for the environment. The Center is currently working on a research project regarding bees which apparently tracks how the timing of our four seasons is shifting.
The Girl Scout Troop is working on a journey called Sow What? – which studies some big food issues: how and where food is grown, processed, distributed, consumed –and so often wasted. I particularly like the title of the project because it is a double-entendre; I feel like the general attitude of people when this topic comes up is So What? Why should I care? And the answer to that is you have every reason in the world to care – your health, your family’s health, any living thing’s health, and the planet’s health. That’s So What.