Something I am trying to do this year is to be a bit more selfish with my canned goods. In a good way. I remember my first attempts at canning, and how I kept everything on an open wire shelf in my little trailer kitchen so I could admire what I had accomplished for myself. Now, once the jars are cool, I label them, box them up, and carry them down to the stand for display and sale. It's a job I still enjoy, and the jars still look lovely, scattered as they are amid the produce, fresh herbs, and other goodies we have for sale. But year after year as of late, I've been shorting myself. While I sell dozens of jars of pickles, for instance, over the course of the farm stand season, I find myself having to buy pickles from the store or go without for the whole of winter. This is, on some level, nuts. I produce so much food for my neighbors and community, but once the season ends, I'm not left with any of some things that I would use, or consider a basic staple. So I am trying to be conscious this year and stock my own pantry first, then take the jars to the stand for sale. Certainly, I sell my pickles for more than the store does, so in theory I can sell mine at a profit and come out ahead buying cheap pickles at the discount food store if only the financial aspect is considered. But it's hard to put a price on providing for myself. My most satisfying meals are ones where I use nothing, or almost nothing (except for real basics like salt or pepper) that was not produced here at the farm. It is partly a matter of pride, I suppose, but it's also tied to the idea of knowing how the food was grown, where it came from, that it has wholesome ingredients instead of a scary chemical cocktail, that it was produced in a fashion I find ethical and sustainable. Exactly the kinds of issues I encourage my customers and readers to consider. It's hard for me to find better food than what I do myself.
So I have emptied out some space in the pantry and have begun stocking it with my own handiwork. In fact, part of the pantry clutter consists of jars I hoard. I love canning, and I love old stuff, and lots of times I buy lots of jars at auction, or farm stand friends bring me jars. Sometimes they are cool, old ones. As long as they are not cracked or chipped, they can be used for food indefinitely. But I hate selling pickles in antique jars, I want to keep them. So instead of just having a shelf full of old jars, I've been putting them back to work. I don't want to sell my bicentennial mason jars with the Liberty Bell on them, but there is no reason I see not to fill them with relish. It's a twofold benefit- my "clutter" becomes useful, and it forces me to plan ahead for myself, to put away for Dan and I rather than just worrying about my inventory at the stand. Being a farmer means doing my part to feed the world, or at least my corner of it. But it's a tough job to do on an empty stomach.