Toward a Resilient Personal Food Strategy – Part 7 – Fats and Sweets

This is the seventh and final article in a series on our progress in devising a resilient food strategy here at Longleaf Breeze. Monday we talked about bread and grains; Tuesday we dealt with vegetables; Wednesday our focus was fruits; Thursday we admitted we’re not prepared for milk, yogurt, and cheese; Friday we dealt with meat, beans, and nuts. And we finish the series today with fats and sweets.


I’ve struggled almost all my life with my weight. Amanda naturally eats less and eats healthier food, so it’s much less an issue for her. Born in 1953, I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by abundant food, including lots of fats and sweets. So, like most Americans of similar age, I’ve viewed fats and sweets all my life as a seductive siren, an evil to be avoided. I have trouble finding others who agree with me on this – even Amanda is a tad skeptical – but within the lifetime of most people my age, most of us will be hungry for calories. We will WELCOME fats and sweets, because they will be ready sources of energy.

We’ve already discussed some of the best sources of fat in our diet, namely eggs and milk. Although Amanda prefers 1% fat milk today, I don’t expect much difficulty with our converting to whole milk from either goats or cows. Maybe even from some of those miniature Zebu cows Jonathon told us about in his comment.

Our preferred source of fat for cooking is olive oil. Surprisingly, perhaps, there is good indication that olives could grow well in central Alabama. A little more than a year ago, I visited with Dr. Safaa El-Hamdani at Jacksonville State University. Dr. El-Hamdani has imported olive trees from his native Jordan and has cultivated them successfully outside his academic office in Jacksonville, AL, about 100 miles north of our farm. He expressed confidence to me that if he could grow them there, we should be able to grow them successfully in the slightly warmer climate of Longleaf Breeze. Sadly, I have no experience to share, because we have not planted any olive trees here yet. That’s a key project for the future. Having olives, of course, is not the same as having a bottle of olive oil. Pressing olives into oil will take another level of mechanization and sophistication in an area that’s relatively foreign to Amanda and me. However, simply having the ability to munch olives would provide us a relatively healthy source of vegetable fat.

While we’re talking about fats from plants, let’s not overlook the high fat content of pecans. We know we intend to plant pecans this fall, so after a LONG waiting period for harvestable fruit, we can log in pecans as a future fat source as well. Shelled pecans are extremely easy to keep in the deep freeze, for more than a year if necessary.

Now we shift our attention to sweets. The most readily available farm-produced sweetener – though it would take a lot of work and patience too – is honey. We have several friends who produce honey and who extol the virtues of honeybee hives for pollination as well as the health benefits of consuming locally produced honey. At the same time, however, we read constantly of the pernicious effect of Colony Collapse Disorder and the looming chance that keeping honeybees may become so difficult in the future as to make it not worth the effort for us. Amanda and I have tended to emphasize preservation of native pollinator habitat as a better, simpler way than honeybee hives for us to enhance pollination, but when and if we get to the point where we need honey, Amanda is fully trained and prepared to become our resident bee wrangler.

When I was growing up, sugar cane was widely grown and often available for sale. I haven’t given it much thought lately, because I remember sugar cane as being tough, fibrous, and rather stingy in releasing its sweetness. I don’t now expect that we would try to grow sugar cane.

Stevia is a different matter. Stevia is my preferred artificial sweetener now, and it’s intriguing to think of growing stevia here on the farm. Stevia wouldn’t provide any calories, but it would allow us to provide sweetness in dishes we prepare. Amanda and I saw some stevia plants for sale outside Western supermarket in Vestavia Hills, AL last spring, but sadly, we had no way to care for them long enough to get them down to the farm, and I figured I would find them available for sale elsewhere. I never did. So I’m left with a lingering longing to experiment with a few stevia plants just to see how they do here and whether the natural sweetness in their leaves would be useful to us. Let’s call that a project too.

Strengths: ability to use eggs and milk as fat sources, as well as ability and willingness to plant pecans and olives and to produce honey on the farm. Ability and willingness to grow stevia as an artificial sweetener.
Weaknesses:
We’re doing exactly none of this now.
Key Projects: Plant pecans and explore planting olives. Begin raising chickens. Experiment with growing Stevia.

Overall grade: C

So now our series on our personal food strategy is ended. My hope, of course, is that you have resonated with parts of it here and there and have begun reflecting on what it might mean for your personal food strategy. Does it make sense, for example, for you to begin working with a small vegetable garden in your back yard? Perhaps keeping a few laying hens? Perhaps you’re farther along than we are and are pleased to see how much progress you’ve made. Or maybe you’re aware how hopelessly naive we are about all this and have enjoyed laughing at us. Whatever your response, I encourage you to think about food and how you will obtain it in the future, a future in which our industrial food delivery system will be misfiring on a regular basis.

During the next 25 years, we’re all going to be thinking more about getting enough food than we have during the last 25 years. Might as well get started now.

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