Dear Friends and Partners.
Interesting times, these. It seems just several weeks ago all that we heard about on the media was concerning the health of the planet; climate change dominated conversations then. Now, the focus has changed to something quite close: the health of us.
And it has got all of our attention.
Most of us have never seen anything like this. On some things, we are embarrassed to be humans—related to those who hoard the likes of toilet paper. On others, we band together, albeit virtually due to social distancing. And I hear through the maddening fear calming words, voices, saying that we will get through this.
I talked to Tom (not his real name) in Chicago. He called me, irate, because we didn’t ship his order this week. He lives near downtown. I explained to him that we didn’t ship it because we were out of several of his items. We would have them this week. I apologized, but I had no idea what we had done.
Tom: “Do you realize that I have nothing to eat this week? There is no meat in the stores. We’ve been asked to stay home, except for absolutely necessary items. All I have is rice and beans. How would you like to be without meat for an entire week while waiting for your order to ship? You could have just shipped part of my order, and I would have had food!”
I was more than a little speechless.
The gravity of raising the steaks—the beef we raise– hit home hard. For the first time in 27 years in the business of raising beef, people were absolutely depending on us for food. Before, they ate our protein because they were healthier from it, they enjoyed the flavor of our fare, and they wanted to support our regenerative practices. They connected with us—we were their rancher, after all, and they entrusted us with their protein supply.
But they always had many other options if in a bind.
But Tom was out of options. He was depending on us. He wasn’t into just trying to buy some vegetables or fruit. It was imperative that he find a good grass fed meat for him to not only survive, but thrive.
I felt terrible. “I am so sorry, Tom. I had no idea. Your order will be first to go out next week. What can I do to make this right?”
“I’m going to have to purchase meat from someone else near Chicago. They’ll get it to me on time, but they have doubled their prices. It will hold me over the weekend—so I’ll have some meat. I’ll be OK.”
“Tom, can I pay for that? How much will it cost?”
At first, he was resistant. But then, he finally let me convince him, and Tom gave in. And so, I did pay for that, even though that producer was gouging Tom on the price. I had to make it fully right with Tom. He had put his trust in us, and I had failed him.
But there was more: I had a lesson to learn, and it was all worthwhile. I was getting a quick study on the fact that people were depending on us for food. For sustenance.
After I hung up with Tom, I had a realization that Tom was not irate. He was simply desperate for good food. For his well-being.
Another take-home: there was no way we were going to take advantage of people in crisis. It’s fingernails on chalkboard. I still have a hard time thinking about a farmer—a producer of food price gouging in times of need. There’s something evil about it akin to a drug pusher or even big pharma that price gouges on drugs that keep people alive. Bad words come to mind to describe them…ones that won’t make it to print. Good thing I’m not Joe Rogan.
Because if I was, those words would be right here.
Then there’s Mary (not her real name) on the West coast. She’s been a longtime partner/purchaser of our wild proteins. She was putting in order after order of our stuff, and Linnaea reached out to her and asked what was going on.
“I’m feeding my family members and neighbors Alderspring.” She explained. “Most of the stores are out of meat.”
All the restaurants and many stores in Mary’s area are closed (and at this point, with the shelter-in-place orders, people aren’t even allowed to go to them). If grocery stores are open, many shelves are empty. And Mary, caring for her friends, presents them even better food.
Bill (also not his real name), on the opposite coast from Mary, lives just outside of NYC. He just filed in another large Alderspring order. He writes: “Yes, strange times…During Hurricane Irene in 2011 I had no water for three weeks. During Hurricane Sandy we had water but no power for three weeks….This time I ordered canned goods and 30 year shelf stable freeze dried food for my tribe of four households in my family that I look after. The plan is to eat through the freezers, then the canned goods and only then the freeze dried. I hope we never get there.”
Bill has a healthy perspective on surviving in a pinch in a fairly urban setting. He too, looks after more than his immediate family. He has elderly folks in his care circle, and they also benefit from the good food and protective stability Bill offers even if times get really rough.
And this time, they just might. None of us knows how long this will last.
There’s other stories I’ve heard about from our customers serving up goodness to friends and family alike—health, wellness really to friends and loved ones. It’s not only our beef. It’s other healthy foods as well—fruits, vegetables, wild salmon, pastured poultry. And though among some there’s an attitude of hoarding and scarcity, among others there is a sense of increased generosity, and sharing.
Now, more than ever, people seem to be focusing on building wellness in themselves and their family members. Resilience. Immune system enhancements through dietary shifts. We are getting orders from new customers, apparently looking for that very thing.
It’s really interesting to us because just a few months ago, we were interacting with folks passionate about climate change, and they were enthralled that we were carbon negative/climate positive. It was because we had invested in our soils by using our beeves to improve it dramatically, as their predecessors, the bison had before them. We had simply learned to follow—and actually lean into nature. And the planet’s health was the crisis in question.
But now, we talk about coronavirus in our conversations, focusing on our own health. And we are realizing that the issues really are very similar. They are both built on wellness that begins with the fruits of the land. They both have everything to do with biologically rich soils and building resilience; immunity from loss of carbon and being the foundation for phytochemically rich foods. These are immune system drivers, secondary and tertiary plant compounds besides those on your “nutrition facts” labels that address cancer, autoimmune issues and immune system functionality.
As with the health of the planet, our survival is inextricably tied to nutrient density in the foods we eat.
We’re so glad we can be a small part of this. We never got into ranching and connecting the wild proteins we raise with people to make a lot of money. There’s never been a get rich quick scheme in agriculture. Investment banking the equity we have invested in land would provide far greater cash returns via Wall Street than we could ever eke from even living soils (it’s why many investment bankers who get into the farming ideal leave and return to their version of Egypt disillusioned).
It was always more like a calling for Caryl and I—a vision that we believe we were given a heart for. It was a heart for healing the land and serving people with the rich fruits of the land that our beeves and other animals imbibe.
There was simply no greater thing we could do. We’ve never driven new cars. We’ve never lived in fancy digs. But we’ve never cared about those things.
But we do care about wellness. Wellness of the land. Of our animals. Wellness of our family.
Happy Trails to you all. May you still find blessing, and gratitude, and generosity in these interesting times.