Checking in with Emile, picking up some pork and other good stuff

With my wife back in town, and what with her missing buying fresh local produce from the Amish up in PA, we took Emile DeFelice up on his invitation to head downtown for the alternative farmer’s market at Gervais and Vine.

We got there sort of late, and some of the vendors were shutting down, but we bought some pork chops, Italian sausage and breakfast links from Emile, and some okra from somebody else — nice little tender ones, too, none of your stringy gigantic pods you tend to get late in the growth cycle. Oh, yeah — and a couple of pounds of ground Angus beef.

It was a little pricey — to which my wife, an organic gardener since college days, says it’s better this way because when she goes to the supermarket she’s tempted to buy stuff she doesn’t need. I also find it hard to reconcile the ideas of "local" and "fresh" with frozen meat. But as Juanita says, if you’re not going to do hormones and preservatives and all that garbage, you have to freeze it. She says that with one of those looks and tones like she can’t believe she married, and bore 5 children for, such an idiot.

Hey, but I’m down with the whole Mr. Natural thing, and always have been. When she and I were first married, and living in what had been her grandparents’ house in Jackson, TN, we were really into that stuff. So much so, in fact, that right after we started living there, a natural-foods store called The Pumpkin Seed opened in a tiny space at the back of what had been her grandfather’s drug store across the little side street the house was on. It was run by a couple a little older than we were who had dropped out and had a dairy farm up in Carroll County. They would give us free manure for our garden — which was about 30 feet from the door of their shop. Since dairy products are deadly to me, I never had any of their milk, but they said it was really good except for the taste of the onion grass the cows ate.

Which sort of brings us back to Emile’s farm, where the hogs graze on whatever they want, and lie around and do whatever they want, except, presumably, watch TV, because that would make them get all flabby.

Emile’s a political guy and sure enough, there’s a political statement in this farmer’s market, which is a deliberate alternative to the State Farmers Market, which caters to a lot of out-of-state vendors and products, and which is subsidized by a lot of tax money, which Emile is against. (So are we, for that matter — we’ve fought unsuccessfully to keep state money from being wasted on the new one out at the end of Shop Road.)

And seeing as how it’s such a political farmer’s market and all, it was fitting that Emile said our own Doug Ross had dropped by earlier, which sort of blew his mind, meeting somebody he’d previously known only virtually in the flesh. And while we were there, Bud Ferillo came by and got himself a late breakfast of fresh strawberry crepes. So it was a happening place.

Emile says he’s going to send us some more info on where to buy local and natural on a regular basis, and I’ll post it here when I get it.

I ain’t gonna work on Emile’s farm no more… hang on, I gotta get my ax, cuz I’ve got another one comin’ on…

2 thoughts on “Checking in with Emile, picking up some pork and other good stuff

  1. Emile DeFelice

    Hi Brad! Thanks to you and Juanita for coming out — and to you Doug — and for putting South Carolina on your plate.
    You make a few observations that I’d like to comment on.
    First, the charge of being ‘pricey.’ Guilty as charged. Know though that very few of us-if any-at the market receive subsidies, and none of us are commodity producers. Unlike at the supermarket cashier, you are paying the true cost of food when you buy from a small local farmer. We have to pay ourselves living wages, and labor under obstacles like environmental regulations, workers’ comp, hourly wages, federal and state taxes and social security, lack of political clout, and more, that do not exist in the same measure or at all in other countries. So when you pay for groceries at the supermarket, you are also paying for cheap oil and everything it takes to support that, for a twenty billion dollar subsidy system 90% of which serves the top 10% of agribusinesses (mostly multinational corporations who have their eye on owning the actual genetics as well as production and distribution of the food chain), health care costs from creating an obese, diabetic nation whose main causes of death are diseases of affluence, and social programs in part necessitated by the havoc we are wreaking on our rural areas, whose previously employed and educated independent populations have been forced to migrate to a dependent urban existence. (this sentence was brought to you by william faulkner)
    Second, the scurrilous charge of “frozen meat.” Ok, guilty again. Think about it though. When I talk about the ‘window of opportunity’ closing for agriculture I am talking about things like small meat plants closing, because there are too many (usually well intentioned) government regulations and too few farmers who can figure out how to compete against corporate monoliths. To offer fresh meat at a twice a month market would imply that the production chains are much stronger than they are. There are slaughter schedules, hauling and transport obstacles, minimum harvest requirements, and annual outputs that are smaller in most cases than most industrial hourly outputs. In addition, most markets do not allow fresh meat as it would invite a liability that would endanger the other vendors and the host, and unwelcome attention from regulatory agencies, who err on the side of caution, otherwise known as the word “no.”
    Lastly, most our vendors are die hard Republicans who would blanch at being cast as Mr or Mrs Natural in a hippie context. I’m talking gun toting constables of the law, religious conservatives, and plain old libertarians. (they all voted for me by the way…or at least they say they did…hmmm) We all congregate under the Local banner. Partisan Politico: tear that wall down! Plenty of local farmers use synthetic amendments, and its true our market cultivates vendors who don’t use them for the most part. However, the litmus test for the All Local Market is whether you grow or produce your product in South Carolina, that’s it.
    Sure has been nice that these issues are being discussed locally, statewide, and nationally. Local food systems are important, healthy, and just fun. So thanks for your contribution.
    Emile DeFelice

  2. Brad Warthen

    And I’m honored as usual at having Emile weigh in.
    Emile will enjoy this: Cindi Scoppe, who grew up on a farm, is particularly scornful of my reference to “frozen,” as her family grew their own meat, froze it and ate it all year.
    And sure, I know that intellectually. I know about “hog-killin'” whether, and how you have to preserve it somehow to eat the rest of the year. I was just saying that it’s an adjustment for a city boy to associate “frozen” with “fresh.”
    I guess I’ll just have to go out into the wild and start killing and eating my own food on the spot, if I want both “natural” and “fresh,” in the sense of “unfrozen.”
    When Jon Ozmint was in here the other day, he talked about taking his boys hunting, and boasted that at least one of them had killed his first boar with a KNIFE. He tried to describe how, and I went away with a very graphic picture of a squirming boar, tusks flashing, dogs growling and holding on in five of six places, and a little kid riding his back like a bull rider in a rodeo, flopping this way and that amid the fangs and froth, holding on with one arm while waving a Bowie knife in the other, looking for a place to slash.
    I’ll take mine frozen and wrapped in plastics, please.
    Important postscript: We had the pork chops the other night, and they were tender, moist (fresh-tasting) and flavorful! Definitely worth the trouble of thawing — and the money. I’m looking forward to the Italian sausages next.

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