I was checking the yahoo group where we run the Gainesville Cow Pool, and saw that the group was started in April of 2010. More than four years! The cow pool itself actually started in 2009 with Melissa DeSa of Forage Farm and Grow Gainesville fame, and grew quickly enough that we needed to move from a direct email list to an online discussion group. We now have 122 members! Soon I hope to move the group off yahoo and onto a private forum.
In the past four years we’ve “pooled” about 10 cows, at least as many pigs, several goats, deer, wild hogs, Thanksgiving turkeys, rabbits, quail, and a water buffalo or two. I’ve built relationships with some great farmers and visited every meat processor in a 50-mile radius. I’ve scrambled to find buyers, made countless phone calls and emails, and explained cow pooling so many times I can do it on auto-pilot.
I’m proud of what of I’ve built and I believe in what we’re doing. I often talk about the “how” of cow pooling, but not the why.
1. Opt out of the system!
Modern American agribusiness based on King Corn is a deeply broken system, and I don’t want to support it. The best way to opt out of the system is to find farmers who share your ethics and buy your food directly from them. Cow pools also support small local butchers, a profession which was dying out.
2. Direct relationships with the farmers.
I don’t need the USDA or food “safety” police because I can drive out to the farms any time I want and take a look around myself. I enjoy getting to know the people who raise and grow my food. I am connected to the entire process- the living animals through the pot roast- through the farmer and the butcher. Buying food directly from farmers and local food craftsmen is more sustainable in every way- short supply chain, no middle men, the farmers make a higher profit, money stays in the community, saves gas, everything good!
3. Direct relationship to my food.
Do you know where that steak in the grocery store came from? Do you know what kind of cow it came from, or even what country that cow lived in? Do you know what that cow ate? How it lived? I care that most of the meat my family eats comes from the county I live in. I care that these animals had good lives and were well cared-for. I care that the animals killed for my food were killed professionally and with compassion. And I’m thankful that there are enough other people in my community that care to make the cow pooling concept work.
4. Trying new foods.
How often have you eaten goat? I rather like goat, and I like buying goat meat and goat’s milk cheeses because goats live lightly upon the earth- much more lightly than cows, for example. Through the cow pool I’ve cooked a lot of goat and found multiple ways to cook and eat it that my family likes. I got interested in hunting wild hogs through the cow pool. I found we liked the flavor of the meat after a hunter “abandoned” some wild hogs with our butcher. I’ve learned a lot about charcuterie and cooking offal because we want to use every part of the animal we can.
These are my top reasons, but there are more- connecting with my local community, providing a service, meeting new people, etc. If you don’t have a local cow pool and are interested in starting one, contact me.