I hope you’ll forgive me for taking a couple weeks off from blogging on Wednesdays. Between head colds, the holidays, and visiting family, it’s been whirlwind. In return for your forgiveness, I give you a long post full of lists!
“Eating is an agricultural act.” Wendell Berry
For the last three days, the Camp Stevens staff has been on retreat down the back side of the mountain. With desert and mountain views, comfortable accommodations, the usual delicious, homemade food, and great programming, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we’re ready to hit the ground running for 2013!
The Camp Stevens Food Philosophy is always an ingredient for good conversation. Most of our guests love, love, love the food served here and the reasons we choose to eat the way we do. A few, of course, do not. Our Food Philosophy can be summarized in four points:
- We choose to prepare plant-based meals. This does not make us vegetarian! We prepare meals that celebrate grains and vegetables as the main affair and offer meat as a side. And you’ll rarely find red meat on our tables.
- We choose to buy whole, unprocessed ingredients. Processing foods takes energy and extra packaging and often reduces the nutritional value of the food and adds preservatives and other additives. By making meals from scratch we know what goes into the food we serve and feel good about it.
- We choose to go organic whenever possible. All our produce, some of our dairy, many of our dried goods, and occasionally the meat we buy are raised or grown without pesticides or chemicals.
- We choose local, in-season produce. At some times of year, this means serving veggies right from our garden! During other times of the year and to supplement warm weather months, we buy as close to home and as in-season as possible.
Our food philosophy is part of our identity, our environmental ethic, our outdoor education program, and our stewardship of God’s green earth. It does cost us more than conventional purchasing would, but we believe it is a thing worth paying for.
Our food philosophy is also a dynamic, always changing part of Camp Stevens culture – and something we get excited to talk about. And at our staff retreat, we did just that. Here’s a snippet of that conversation.
First, we defined the terms:
- Organic food – that which is grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other food additives;
- Natural food – foods that are minimally processed and usually do not contain antibiotics or hormones – not necessarily organic;
- Conventional food – food grown or raised using chemical fertilizers or pesticides on fields to reduce weeds and pests, or using injections in animals to prevent disease or influence growth rate;
- Local food – a consideration of the distance traveled between food producers and consumers; “local” is often a self-defined term (100 miles? 500 miles? same country?);
- GMOs – genetically modified organisms; for example: genetically modifying corn to be more drought resistant or to have larger ears.
We also learned or were reminded that:
- The definitions for the above vary greatly depending on source.
- “Organic” is both a descriptive word and an official designation.
- There are good, moral arguments for growing or eating conventionally grown or raised food.
- Foods labeled organic or natural speak to the “food” used to grow the food (grain, grass, feed) and not the treatment of said food. For example, at some farms, conventionally raised beef may be treated more kindly than at an organic farm.
- There is a healthy debate over whether “organic” or “local” is better if one had to choose. The conversation is often founded on the issues of transportation fuel use and local economic or social growth.
- Most of us are emotionally attached to our food choices, so talking about them can be an emotional experience!
After wondering himself for some time, one staff/community member crunched some $ numbers and found the following:
Here’s what this says about where we are right now. 1) we are meeting our goal to purchase organic produce and ingredients (Alberts and UNFI are organic food distributors ; 2) we like good coffee!; 3) we try to support the local farmer when it is possible and practical; 4) we need to figure a way to include the produce from our own gardens in the calculations; and 5) we have room to grow.
I, for one, am excited to see where grow next and I’d love for you to join the conversation.
Whim: “sudden idea.” This weekly post promises a number of things: personal thoughts and reflections, showing off Camp Stevens’ programs and staff, announcements for upcoming opportunities, and answering questions or responding to comments “from the audience.” If you have a topic or question you’d like addressed, just e-mail Beth!