Saving the Saving Remnant

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Swany White Flour -- Freeport, MN. Milling ended this month after a fire burnt the late 1800's early 1900's mill to the ground.

I've been buying my flour in 50# sacks from Swany White since about 1997. Even though Mike gave me my very own County Living flour grinder, I still loved my to mix Swany White with my hand ground whole wheat.

The Freeport, MN Swany White flour mill will not be replaced. They were still using the mill equipment from 1913-- and replacement doesn't make economic sense. So much loss-- a thriving small town business, a place farmers could bring their local and organic wheat, a great product that was beloved by those who knew and used it. Makes you kinda ache, doesn't it.

We're losing a lot in these couple of generations-- yours, mine, my children's. Once the pieces of our once thriving rural infrastructure are gone, they can't be replaced with the same quality as before. Just a few days ago, we lost the 2nd to last two story brick building on Main Street Clinton. It looks to me that the gaping holes that remain are filled with pole buildings. To me, those buildings don't have the permanence or skill embedded in them the way those lovely brick building do-- or as the case may be-- did.

Minnesota's 2012 Organic Farming Conference came on the heels of losing Swany White and was hosted less than 30 miles away in St. Cloud. There were a solid 450 solid people at this year's conference. Lots of old timers and new, young farmers. I walked away from that conference saying "Thank God" we have farmer like these who are stewarding the land and holding onto skills that would otherwise be lost in a couple generations. Cattlemen, vegetable breeders, small grain growers are just a few of the folks at whose feet we sat in the last two days.

One thing I learned and the crux of what I bring back to my farm, is that these organic farmers and keepers of animals and seeds (the 'seedies') are practicing "slow farming." Meaning they invest their time and give their intimate attention to their farm's plants (and animals and soil). The lessons I took away from vegetable breeding and seed saving workshop,(by humble, approachable, powerhouse Theresa Podoll) are to know what you want from your crops (taste, storage, pest tolerance) and to be mindful of every plant-- how it looks and feels the fruit; to both study and eat your squash (how long did it last in the pantry, how much flesh, how does it taste?), and; save the seeds from just the very very best.

Men and women out across the landscape (like the Podolls in rural North Dakota and ES and his soybeans) are stealthily saving the best seed from crops, developing even better varieties for the times, and ensuring a very small part of the biodiversity from the past -- for the future. These people and their seeds are the saving remnant. And frankly, in a global near-monopoly of seed companies, they are preserving freedom and independence along with those seeds. Thank you.

Today, Sunday January 15, 2012, we have the most complex food system in the history of humankind. You think it's easy getting your Hot Pockets and Mountain Dew to the Cenex Station in Grygla, Minnesota? It probably took 10,000 people to prepare that meal -- from making the fertilizer to grow the crops, extracting and refining the oil to make the plastic bottle, setting up the distribution system and delivering it so that we can eat it in the car on our way to our next busy task. All that for $2.59 and and a touch of diabetes.

Did I digress? No-- we've have lost a lot of our communities' real food infrastructure like creameries, butcher shops, and even our skills of how to grow food and cook it. And right now, we are under threat of losing even our rural groceries in a mass die-off across the countryside.

Swany White Flour died in a fire-- and it's not 'bankable' to bring it back. You may now check another piece of valued, needed, and beloved local institution off your list. And if you care, then hold on to and invest in your small town and local farmer.

Stirring up the last of our Swany White Flour for today's dinner
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3 Comments

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This was interesting to read.. Thanks for the post!

So sad about Swany White. Love reading your stories!

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This page contains a single entry by Kathryn Draeger published on January 15, 2012 11:18 AM.

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