As a wife, mommy and farmer there are always so many things to learn! I am always learning something new… and then when I think I finally have it figured out a new adventure awaits with a brand new learning curve. And really that’s okay with me, I love to learn and grow. After all life would get pretty boring if there was nothing new to discover, create or learn!
One thing I have learned over the years of farming is that things are constantly changing and I need to be willing to adapt. What worked wonderfully last season may not be ideal anymore. Adding a new baby, the children growing older, cooler or warmer than usual weather, or simply a different goal can drastically change the best method of doing tasks on a daily basis.
When we first started out with the farm one of my goals was to not waste anything. Nothing. At. All. I seriously would spend hours cutting off all the bad spots or washing off bugs from the produce that was too ugly to sell( and some of it was really ugly). I canned, froze or dried it all. That was our own stores for the winter. Everything that was nice got sold. Starting out with practically nothing was one of the main reasons for this mindset, although realizing that in general we all waste so much, was and still is another reason.
Over time I have discovered something interesting though. Something that I have thought about and puzzled about and tried to find where the balance is quite a bit. It is this: There will always be waste. I have concluded that it is unavoidable. Now of course I do believe we can minimize it and should do our best to waste less. Something will always get wasted in the process of living. Either, time money or resources. To attempt to waste nothing is a goal that I do not have anymore.
I believe that there is a balance of how much and what gets wasted that we should strive to find. Finding this balance is my goal now. This will likely be different not only for each person but also in different seasons in each persons life.
I do not work so hard any more to save every scrap of edible produce. Why? Because I do not have the time anymore(or the energy) and to do so would be wasting my time. I now have three little children that need my time. My time is better used planting and growing a whole new bed of green beans rather than picking every last over mature, tough bean to can.
Looking back I see that there are seasons. For the season I was in at the time, doing what I did was the best choice. At that time my time spent doing the extra, tedious work of sorting and saving everything was worth less than the healthy produce that I stored up for the winter. Now however my time doing that would be worth more the little amount I could save and store.
Don’t get me wrong, I still save a lot. I can, I freeze, I put it up for the winter. I just don’t cut out the 90% worm eaten parts of a radish to save the 10% that is good.
As I continue to ponder the question of waste, values and balancing it all, I have come to realize one more thing. While there will always be waste, the flip side is that nothing truly has to be wasted.
Looking back at all the time I spent not wasting anything could be seen as a waste of time by some. But not only did we have healthier food than we could have afforded to buy for ourselves(even if it wasn’t pretty) but also it was a time of great learning, working together, and growth. The lessons and memories from our early farming days will always be treasured.
Now that I am not quite so picky about saving and eating everything, it could be seen as perfectly good food going to waste. But that is not really true either. I still save what I reasonably can, anything that has only minor blemishes gets sold as seconds or donated to local food banks, and the seriously ugly stuff goes into the compost pile, tilled back in, or sometimes fed to the chickens.
What about you? What are your thoughts about waste? What have you done to minimize waste in your own life? Do you think it is possible to avoid all forms of waste?