I have Smithfield Foods to thank for my conversion to the locavore life. It happened in 1997 while we were living in Charlottesville, Virginia. Smithfield Foods, a Virginia-based company, was fined over $12 million by the EPA for nearly 7,000 violations of the Clean Water Act. To put it nicely, they dumped tons of pig waste from their “lagoons” directly into Virginia’s rivers. To put it less nicely, they didn’t give a shit about human health, the environment, their animals or the local economy. They chose NOT to implement pollution controls for years because it saved them money. I canoed those rivers and loved the Chesapeake Bay—Smithfield Foods didn’t care one whit about me or my community. I had been their customer but never again would I purchase a Smithfield Foods product. I would change the world by supporting local businesses with my dollars.
I was already shopping at the Charlottesville farmers market but it was more of an add-on and a social outing. I was “supporting” the community with my $20 a week. Smithfield Foods changed that. I limited my spending at large grocery stores and found an amazing co-op along with the new Whole Foods to shop at. I spent more of my grocery budget at the farmers market because I knew the farmers and understood what really supporting them meant. They were part of the community and they cared for their land and animals—by extension they therefore cared about me.
Meat matters. I am an omnivore. If you eat meat, it matters how it was raised. It matters that we eat less meat and our diet is balanced. It matters that the entire animal is used because that life mattered. It matters because when you tuck into an amazing steak, juicy burger, pulled-pork sandwich, lamb kabobs or liver and onions you’ll feel good because you know where it came from, how it was raised and that you’re supporting a local business.
Money also matters. There are plenty of corporations big and small that work to support their community, their workers and the Earth because it is smart business. We all need someone checking in on us and holding us accountable: taxpayers, share-holders, shoppers and regulators. I’m concerned that our administration is governing by executive orders thereby removing any debate or consideration of unintended consequences, not least the health and protection of our natural resources and the health and protection of our people. Giving businesses a free pass is bad; been there done that and history always repeats itself. We can change the world. Support rules and regulations that work to protect what you care about. Put your dollars where your mouth is to keep our local economy thriving: buy local and sustainable—and that includes your protein!
You matter—to me and to our community.
Live Local * Eat Well