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Life Arts    H2'ed 11/19/09

Talking About Food and Farming with Orren Fox

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Orren Fox may be only 12 years old but he knows what he's talking about. He's been called the next Michael Pollan, high praise, indeed. Welcome to OpEdNews, Orren. Tell our readers your philosophy about food, please.

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Sorry for the delay. I took a trip to Washington and then had to catch up on homework.

I am "ProFood", a phrase made up by my friend @jambutter, Rob Smart.

Here are some of the things I think kids should think about with food. Try growing veggies yourself; you'll be surprised that all of your effort will make it taste great. Try staying away from drinks that have an ingredient: high fructose corn syrup. It's not great for kids' bodies - you'll be astonished how many drinks, including fruit juices, have it. If I remember what I read correctly, the average American eats 35 pounds of HFC a year. Let's be honest - that can't be good. Could that be part of the reason kids are obese? Because HFC is in so many things? Ask how the meat you are eating was raised. If the pig/chicken/cow was treated like a prisoner, would you care? Would you still eat it? Think about it. Go to the market with your parents and ask for organic food. Do you want to eat pesticides? Pesticides are chemicals that are sprayed on the food to kill bugs/mites/insects. If it can kill something, how can it be good for you? Think about it - that chicken you are eating is a really cool animal. If you were able to meet one, even have one sit on your knee for a minute, you would realize that she is a wonderful creature, very much like other animals you might love.

Where did your awareness come from, Orren? There are plenty of people at least twice your age who don't see the importance of being mindful about what we eat.

I wish I had a good answer , but it is just what I wake up and am interested in. It isn't the only thing I am interested in, but it's one of the things. I just like farms and barns and dirt; I guess it's where I feel most comfortable. I don't feel that great when I am in a city. I enjoy visiting but am happy to be where there is less concrete. I guess some people just wake up and are interested is certain things. I have friends who think about horses or piano or football, for me it's chickens. And then, once I learned about how some chickens were treated, I became interested in food.

When I was in 5th grade, we were asked to do a big research project and I, obviously, did mine on chickens. During that time, I learned a lot about different breeds and how to care for birds, but I also learned a lot about how terribly most of the hens in this country are treated. The hens raised for meat and for eggs are not treated humanely. So, after this project, I began to do more and more research.

The following year, I did a "persuasive essay" for my English class and I learned even more about the issue. Slowly, slowly, I began to wonder not only about hens, but also about other food. Then I saw Food, Inc. and it really opened my eyes to what is happening. I can't figure out why people aren't more pissed off about this. Factory farming makes animals objects - not living, breathing, creatures. People say to me "But, it's just a chicken"... Right, it is a chicken, but I wouldn't say "just." I would say, it's a funny, bossy, silly animal that I am not willing to torture for the sake of cheap, tasteless meat and eggs.

You get attached to chickens the way other people connect with dogs or cats?

I suppose I do. However, the big difference is that hens don't live in your house and I imagine that makes a big difference. The hens don't just wander over while I am doing homework and sit on my lap, but when I arrive at my coop they definitely sing out "hello", "Glad you are here". Sometimes, on beautiful days, I let my hens out while I am cleaning their coop. They wander around and explore. Every now and then, someone will find a worm and whistle over to the others to come see what she has found. Often, when I am at the back door of the barn scrubbing bowls, a hen will come over and tell me she needs to lay and egg, so I let her in and she heads straight to the nesting box.

I never even knew there were so many different types of chickens. But, first things first. Where is this barn? In your back yard?

It's my friend Julie's barn. It's about a mile away, just in the next town which is quite rural, despite the fact that we are only 30 miles from Boston. The barn is big, red and full of energy. We have goats, hens, roosters, horses, ducks, and guinea hens. Boy, they sure do throw up a racket!

When I first became interested in hens, I volunteered at her barn and about a year after I started working there, she suggested that I get my own hens . It was a terrific day, just dreaming about which hens to choose. After I picked them out, I brought them home to our house and they lived in our kitchen for a while. One of the nicest things about having them at our house was being able to hold them all the time and hear them make their purring sounds, not the clucking sounds, but really purring. I could hear them as I went to bed.

I didn't know chicks purr. And I can just picture them running around your kitchen. Your mother's made of strong stuff.

This winter, I am going to bee school and plan on having some hives next spring. The barn is right next to some honeycrisp apple trees and sweet peaches. I think the bees will like it there. I think I will name my honey either BeeHappy or The Birds and the Bees!

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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