The Chicken or the Egg?
A Family Field Trip Serves Up Some Answers About Where Our Food Comes From
The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. –Arnold H. Glasgow
Photographs by Dave K. Cooper
As a parent one gets asked lots of interesting questions the answers to which adults take for granted. We understand that our omelet comes from an egg and that egg comes from a chicken. But if you really think about where that chicken and egg come from, that omelet may not be so appetizing.
Jen and I are big believers in real food and sustainable farming. We buy locally when we can, and get free range meat and eggs at the market. And we’re not the only ones. Thankfully, there’s a growing trend among people across classes to buy local, pesticide-free, just plain natural foods. Critics suggest it’s some sort of dreamed up hippy-dippy, new aged thingy. Frankly, that’s just plain bull (pun intended). In fact, sustainable farming has been around long before your grandparents were. Of course, they had a different name for it: faaarming.
After reading books like In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan we began to realize that we had a responsibility to our kids—yet another in an enormous list!—to make sure they understand the origins of the food we eat. Since we also have a responsibility not to scar them for life, we’re leaving The Meat You Eat on the shelf for now. In order to get this lesson off to a good start we decide to take a trip. A little family field trip to be precise…
Family Field Trip
On a chilly spring day our little family of four put our boots on and went to family-run Springfield Farm, just north of Baltimore. And immediately upon arriving I can see we’re in the right place. They treat their birds right! The chickens seem happy, healthy and have lots of space to roam. The Smiths welcome visitors to the farm and encourage you—like their chickens—to roam about the acres of farmland. You can even bring a picnic lunch and sit on the property somewhere lovely and relax.
And there weren’t just chickens. While there we saw peacocks, baby chicks (OK, still technically a chicken), ducks, swans, goats and turkeys. The turkeys were in a word, HILARIOUS! As we approached their coop there wasn’t a sound to be heard. As Jen approached with the kids and she got her first glimpse, she exclaimed “Turkeys!” And the birds answered back. GOBBLE, GOBBLE, GOBBLE, GOBBLE!!! From pure serene silence, to a cacauphony of noise like you can’t imagine. We laughed so hard and it became the moment I’ll remember from that trip.
By the way, I can do a pretty good impression of this sound so dear reader, should we ever meet just say the word…
The kids had a blast and learned a lot that afternoon. I think they had a new appreciation for just how amazing food is. We left with a dozen chicken eggs, a goose egg, farm-churned butter and some cheese. The term farm fresh taste is no joke. As we were driving back home my daughter became a little sad at the idea that many of the animals we saw would be slaughtered for food. I explained that it’s OK to be a little sad about it. That the whole point of farms like Springfield is to make sure that the animals are treated with dignity and respect.
I’m happy to know that my $4.25/dozen buys them that.
We encourage you to seek out farms like Springfield in your area. More and more welcome visitors. They want us to understand what they’re doing and why. Check the Slow Food Website for local chapters in your area. And of course, try some local farm goods. Nothing in a supermarket comes close.
Scenes from our day at Springfield Farms…