When my kids were younger I used to love to read them books by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond. One of our particular favorites was If You Give a Pig a Pancake in which the little pig comes up with all sorts of creative things he may have to do if you will be so kind as to give him some pancakes.
In our world, pancakes are pretty easy to come by. You can find them premade in the frozen foods section, make them from a boxed mix like Bisquick, or even (if you are feeling adventurous!) grab the flour and sugar from the pantry and start them from scratch. What could be simpler than that, right? Did you ever stop to think how much harder it would be to make a pancake if you had to grow your own grains?
When I was growing up, we were taught that grains made up the base of the food pyramid. I think they have some fancy new guidelines in place nowadays but the idea remains the same…the majority of our caloric intake should come from whole grains. While it may be easy enough for us to grow our own tomatoes and apples in our backyard, growing our own wheat, rice, or oats is another story completely.
Ever since World War 2, small farms have been put out of business, bought out, and otherwise shut down. We are now dependent on large scale agribusiness farms for the production of our most basic food source: grains! Have you ever gone to a local farmer’s market and found a small farmer selling their own wheat? Personally, I have never come across this!
Think About This: According to NationMaster, the United States grows approximately 63,590 thousand metric tons of WHEAT in a year, not to mention how much corn, rice, oatmeal, etc are also grown here in the US. Where would we be if there was a mass failure in the transportation system of this country or if a wheat disease (of which there are hundreds!) wiped out the entire crop?
Growing our own grains is not something I have personally ever considered but the idea of being dependent on large scale farms is terrifying! Once you start to really look deeper into the politics of farm subsidies, biofuels, and genetically modified crops it starts to get even more worrisome! The agricultural policy of the United States has some major problems but I’m not so sure I see this getting the attention it deserves in the upcoming election!
If you DO have a little bit of extra land and are considering which crops to grow this spring, you might want to consider these grains. Then, maybe you can proudly show off the pancakes you grew all by yourself!
Wheat: Harder than corn to grow but easier than many others. Definitely one of the most versatile grains.
Oats: There are hull-less varieties that are easier to process and are easier for the small farmer to grow. Can be used for both human and animal food and were once grown as a cover crop for strawberries.
Buckwheat: It can be planted in early summer and the fall flowers are an excellent source of nectar for honeybees. It is high in lysine, an amino acid that other grains lack
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