Let me get this out of the way first: There are many positives to the global, interconnected economy.
For consumers, it’s meant lower costs for many goods and greater selection – key tenets of a healthy, capitalist economy.
But the COVID-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in that system and drove many people, including my family, to seek out the local, even if it means paying more.
We started getting some of our meat from a ranch in the Big Horn Basin, some of our produce from the farmers’ markets, and eschewed Billings and public health orders to shop in Cody and Powell for many goods.
Heck, we even supersized our own flock of chickens and planted a bigger garden to try and help this movement.
It feels good to shop local, whether that means in the region or in the yard, and it reminds you of just where all the food comes from.
In that sense, we’re in a fantastic area for that. I drive to work down the Powell Highway and look to the sides at corn growing, fresh cut hay and the promise of sugar beets.
You can find similar scenes all over rural areas, but keep it local and you’ll see the hands that picked that corn, the face of the farmer who put time and energy into making the crop what it is.
Keep it local and you’ll appreciate where your meat comes from. You may see steers in a field, happily chewing cud, that are born and bred to become a wide selection of beef cuts for you and your family to enjoy. That scene may be a bit messier than the corn, but it’s no less important.
I’ll admit I didn’t appreciate this scene much until recently. While I’ve hunted since I was a youth with a Browning .22 (still my go-to rabbit rifle), I’ve never shot a goose that knew my face or a duck I raised since it was a duckling, or a rabbit I pulled out of its hutch.
Then a friend of ours traded five troublesome roosters for a bunch of onions. These weren’t birds we’d raised, but now they were ours, and for us they only had one purpose – the freezer.
So I looked at them for a bit as they strained their necks to try and figure out just what was going on outside of their carrying crate. I determined then to do the deed as quickly as I could to limit the suffering of each of them, thankful I didn’t know their names.
Later, I felt bad. Here I had taken the easy way out. As I write this youth, all across the area have been coming together at the Park County Fairgrounds, many showing steers, pigs and even rabbits that will be sold and slaughtered for their meat. That they learn so early the importance of taking care of animals, even those that will end up in a serving dish, is vital and a key tenet of knowing where your food comes from.
So in the future I don’t want to avoid what’s hard but seek it out because it’s right.
So we’ll grow what we can, thank our hens for their eggs, buy nearby what we don’t raise and maybe just get a steer sometime.