Sunday, July 3, 2011

Investment Observations: Farming is up!

So i apologize for the lull in blogging lately, Farm Family had a bit of a family emergency that lead to a blog hiatus, but that being over and done with we can move on to the observations we had during said hiatus.

The other day, Luis and i were at Borders just sorta browsing.  You know how when you walk up that main center aisle in Borders, they have clearly abandoned anything even remotely resembling a library system and instead are just bombarding you with whats new and cool?  Like when you first walked through the door three summers ago it was Twilight non-stop?  Well this year, walk up that aisle and take a look around.  What do you see?

If you are in the Borders in the Park Place Mall, you'll see books on cooking, gardening, canning, couponing, DIY, BYOB (brew your own beer!) and all manner of other "Farm Life" (as i have defined them) activities.

Luis and i have been speculating about this for weeks now.  We don't know too many people who seek to grow a lot of their own food and I only know one other person with chickens, but it seems to be a wave that is catching on and moving into the realm of popularity.

 First of all, its pretty obvious that the movement itself was born out of the economic disaster of 2008.  But for our complete lack of restraint and common sense (as a collective) during the years that proceeded the collapse, we might not have ever gotten to this point.  Some could argue its really not a good thing.  I say anything that caused us to reevaluate our priorities and get back onto a track of knowing how to do things our mothers probably didnt teach us but great-grandmothers new how to do 60 years ago cant be all that bad.

That was not a dig at my mother by the way.  Cause goodness knows she reads this and is currently saying (probably out loud mind you) "It was the 80's! No one knew how to cook! and for the record my mom couldnt cook either!!"  That is actually my point completely.  My mom's generation and to some extent the generation before hers lost the value in these activities.  I blame that on a general rise in economic prosperity and the invention of new and cool things that made it unnecessary to know those things.  Microwave dinners came around and so no one need learn to cook.  Super markets opened up so a little backyard garden didnt really seem worth all the effort.  the stores canned the tomatoes FOR you so why sweat in a hot kitchen at the end of august if you didn't have to?  Its all reasonable thinking for the time period it was happening in.  I doubt when it was going down that anyone thought that the tomatoes would become mass produced and not so fresh.  I certainly dont think it occurred to them that their daughters' daughters would only be able to cook what was on the back of a Campbell's soup can.

But now that the economy, or lack their of, has forced us as a whole to slow down and reevaluate our way of living, we are going back to the things our great grandmothers did.  And what's funny about it is that its all new and eco-friendly now, but when it happened 60 years ago, it was just how you did things.  The plastic grocery bag didnt appear widely in stores until the 80s and before that there were paper bags which i can't find a date on but my old friends till me that a disposable bag wasnt really a thing until the late 60's.  Before that it was canvas bags. So we are returning to some of our preVietnam ways of life. its not so bad.

But once a thing has started, i doubt it can ever be fully undone.  Which is why Luis and i, standing in Borders, began to think of the current economic repercussions related to this new/old way of doing things.  What sort of companies are on the cutting edge of these ideas that would make for good investments?  Ball canning supplies who is now marketing itself as a "sustainable" option rather than "look your great aunt used to do this!"?  Might be a good idea, but we worry that without gardens, people arent going to can. Canning grocery store stuff just isnt as fun. What about the makers of Composters? Schwinn? Seed companies? Alternative Energy?

Warren Buffet always says to invest in something you understand.  I understand chickens.  I understand clotheslines... i understand cooking and i understand that a good bike ride at night with my kids makes me feel better.  But i dont know how to parlay that knowledge into sound investment strategy.  Certainly i havent gone so far off the grid as to think i should invest in gold only which i will bury beneath my hen house never to be found by robbers.  I doubt i'll make my millions selling eggs on craigslist. An investment in a small energy company could one day turn out to be the smartest thing i ever did, but frankly i dont understand alternative fuel sources all that much so i'm not sure Warren would be proud.

What I think is that i get the opportunity to live in one of the coolest times in history.  Yes our politics are laughable and we are fighting three wars that no one fully understands and our president smokes for goodness sake, but we get the best of both worlds in our private lives.  Because when you are worried about your own chickens, your own family and your own life those large global things arent your focus.  My generation has the free access to investment options provided by the generations before us, but has also had the chance to observe the mistakes of our fathers that led to the collapse of the world as we knew it.  On top of that we have a chance to relearn the wisdom of our grandmothers and reclaim what was great about before while still being able to invest in tomorrow.  Its really all pretty sweet.

So while this whole Urban Farm lifestyle might seem like a fad at the moment, at least our family is hopeful it becomes a movement that changes the way our children look at life and food and responsibility while still keeping our cool gadgets and internet radio.


  1. YAY! A new blog!!!! I must share this with you and your readers!

    We were listening to NPR on the way home from our camping trip yesterday and heard an interview with this author about his book which seems to fit perfectly right here!

    At first I thought "well this is shocking" but then I realized that it really isn't. Given the difference between the tomatoes we get out of our garden and the tomatoes the rest of you are buying from the grocery stores. Soon our tomatoes are going to be gone from our garden and I will be so very sad.

    That shared I must say one other thing. Indeed I did get defensive when I read this but my defensiveness went in a different direction than you predicted. I said to my self (and not out loud I will have you know) "Wait! I was some what instrumental in your start in the cooking of whole foods by giving you your subscription to the "Cooking Light" magazine you get every month and by introducing you to Penzey's spices.

    Indeed when you were little I did a lot of cooking with Campbells soup....every one did... I did "see the light" before you started cooking and encouraged you to to things differently. Thank goodness your children will never have to eat hamburger and green bean cassarole! I CAN say I never made you eat Hamburger Helper!

  2. And, in further defense of the generation that your mom and I came from, Katie, we didn't have the resources to educate ourselves about food quality like we do now. Back in the day there were no Whole foods, no Trader Joes. There were no studies documenting the adverse health effects of fast food. Quite the opposite -- there was an aggressive marketing campaign by the food industry giants to promote highly processed foods. In my senior year of high school home ec we learned how to make those Pillsbury biscuits that come in the can. That took lots of skill and hours of food science study! Budgeting the home finances that all housewives were expected to be responsible for consisted of putting your cash into a variety of envelopes clearly labeled: utilities, food, etc......but now I'm veering off course. What was my point here? I can't remember, except I guess I feel lucky to have lived long enough to see food marketing come full circle. I can remember when my mom did all the cooking from scratch, making bread, canning veggies and fruits, etc., stuff like what you're doing now; which is one of the many reasons why I find your blog so interesting. You're a damned good writer and the illustrations are the pièce de résistance.