Fresh & Local
The Fringe Benefits of Farming, Part 2
Column #53, Published Sept 21st, 2012

There is currently a food revolution going on. Locally grown food is making permanent inroads into the food we eat, and the way we think about food.

Last week I wrote that farming has some significant fringe benefits, and that I have come to the conclusion that whether farming is a good way to make a living or not depends on how you value those fringe benefits. I rate some of these as being very important. Here is my list of the bennies, in descending order of importance.

#1) We eat really well. We eat what we grow, and we take the time to cook dinner - and sit down together at the table - every night.

I quoted Theodore Dalrymple last week that treating meals as important social occasions is indicative of an entire attitude towards life. My son Jason emailed me after reading my column last week. Jason is in the Navy, and he said that spending so much time out on deployments has given him a new appreciation for the importance of meals with the TV off.

We eat what we grow. We grow about 30 food crops (not including flowers and other ornamentals), and we grow year-around. We also buy from and trade with other farmers’ market vendors, so there is always variety.

We bought half a steer from our friends Tim and Tracy Brown at Seminole Farm. Tim finishes cattle and is also a grower for our primary wholesaler The Fresh Link. Tim had a steer that looked like a farm show grand champion. They were keeping it for themselves but it was more than what they could use, so they sold half the steer to us. That is some good beef.

Our growing season starts on August 1st. Terry and I celebrated the new year with Porterhouse steaks from our steer. We lightly grilled them with a Montreal steak seasoning, and then finished them in a cast iron skillet with a little butter in the oven. That was the best steak I have ever had, and a great way to celebrate the new year.

We usually make homemade pasta at least once a week. We were planting greens over the weekend and we got a much-needed rain starting Monday night. So we decided to celebrate with Chicken Marsala. Herb-crusted grilled chicken breasts are served over homemade fettuccini with a butter-Marsala wine sauce with our cherry tomatoes and peppers, and North Cove mushrooms.

If you really enjoy food, then local market farming gives you the opportunity to do it.

#2) We get lots of exercise. In fact, since I started farming full-time I have lost 30 pounds without ever trying to lose any weight.

Which kills more people: smoking or inactivity? A study published in the July 21st issue of the medical journal The Lancet concluded that inactivity kills as many people world-wide every year as smoking does.

According to the Lancet, “Strong evidence shows that physical inactivity increases the risk of many adverse health conditions, including major non-communicable diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancers, and shortens life expectancy. Because much of the world's population is inactive, this link presents a major public health issue.”

The study found that worldwide, physical inactivity causes 6% of the coronary heart disease, 7% of type 2 diabetes, 10% of breast cancer, and 10% of colon cancer. Those figures would mean that inactivity causes 9% of premature mortality, or more than 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths that occurred worldwide in 2008. That is almost one out of every ten deaths.

I will finish my list of fringe benefits next week.

Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at