This post was sponsored by Whole Foods Market, America’s Healthiest Grocery Store.
Our food is not what it used to be. Or rather, our relationship with food has seen some change. Think about it. In the course of human history – spanning thousands of years and generations – it has only been in the last century or so that, for the majority of us, the burden of personally producing what we eat has been taken out of our hands.
Thanks to the pairing of modern convenience with cultural innovation, we no longer need to take to the tractor in order to ensure that our pantry is well stocked. From grocery store to corner market — to even the World Wide Web — thinking about acquiring food isn’t a matter of how nowadays but where. We have so many options available for places to buy groceries that the fact our food has to originate from somewhere can be easily overlooked.
While many might not see the problem with readily available goods (and it’s not a problem, per se), if we’re not at least mindful of the growing disconnect between farm and fridge, then we also won’t be able to fully appreciate when our food is produced and handled well. Moreover, complacency can easily eclipse praise – praise for those farmers and companies who don’t cut corners. The ones who orient their lives around their livelihood so that we all may benefit from the care they put into delivering whole, healthy products.
… if we’re not at least mindful of the growing disconnect between farm and fridge, then we also won’t be able to fully appreciate when our food is produced and handled well.
Darling had the unique opportunity to step first-hand into the story of one such farmer partnering with Whole Foods Market. (And, full disclosure, the two of us who met Mary and toured her farm are probably the two least likely meat-eaters Darling could have sent. Yet, we chose to put our personal dietary choices aside in order to focus on the positive notes of someone else’s. After all, we all know someone who eats meat and could benefit from learning a little more about where theirs comes from).
For generations Mary Pitman’s family has sought to connect with what they keep, raising turkeys (as well as chickens and ducks) free-range on their farm in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Bordered by a mountain range in the distance and with a roaming range that’s four times the offering of a commercial farm, one immediately gets the sense that this is where food should come from. Open air, organic feed that is free of arsenic and preservatives, and plenty of sunshine to warm treetops and perching benches, Mary takes pride in what she offers her birds here. It’s more than a job, more than something she just has to do, her farm is about creating and sustaining the good. A good that is more than evident in a stock that’s richly colored, anything but shy or scared, and with robust, healthy features — a nod to the active lifestyle they’re afforded.
You also get the sense that it’s hard for farms like hers. At least, it has been. Within minutes of meeting us, Mary opens up about the trouble her family saw in the late 90s, during a time when many farms and businesses were leaving California taking precious revenue and opportunity with them. Facing the farm’s closure her son opened five chicken farms while attending college, which enabled them to stay afloat long enough to raise 5,000 turkeys. Sensing a high demand, Mary and her husband focused all their efforts on producing a healthy, organic crop — something of the utmost importance to Mary.
“Our turkeys are just turkeys. Our chickens are just chicken. What a concept,” Mary states with a laugh. She goes on to detail how poor health plagued her for nearly 30 years and despite eating only protein and vegetables, she was left raising three children in a constantly weakened state. When the cause of her illness was finally discovered and removed — eight fillings that had been releasing toxic mercury into her system — she was convinced that her healthy regime of supplements had been the only thing carrying her through.
“I was careful about what I ate but this is when it was hard to find organic food … the day those [fillings] came out eight years ago, I got my life back,” she explains.
In getting her life back, she’s also been able to build a business she believes in. Thanks to her partnership with Whole Foods Market (where her take-home rotisserie chickens and fresh turkeys can be found nationwide), Mary is able to produce a product rooted in the high standards and ethical treatment she prioritizes, making it easy for others to go organic, too. “Everything behind the counter is non-GMO at Whole Foods Market now and all our turkeys are non-GMO. So we listen to their customers and we listen to our customers and that’s what we produce,” Mary says, further elaborating on the readiness of Whole Foods Market to innovate and adapt to what health-conscious consumers crave.
Additionally, Mary’s drive to set the bar high for food-quality on a national level has also been recognized. Her youngest son worked for a year writing the verification process for non-GMOs, which is now the standard not just for Whole Foods Market, but for the entire United States. It’s a true family affair on her farm, from her husband and sons taking an active role (in all avenues) to the fact you can find her phone number and personal “turkey hotline” printed on the back of every package.
Is it really a wonder she can hold her own in an industry dominated by billion-dollar corporations?
Organic, local, intentional, and with a commitment to deliver more than just a price tag. That’s what health-minded individuals value and since visiting Mary, it’s nice to know that it’s still what they can count on. While most probably aren’t up to drive a few hours in order to quality check their groceries (back to that notion of modern convenience), Whole Foods Market proves that you don’t have to if perusing their aisles. They’re easing the distance between farm and fridge so that food isn’t a mystery.
It’s a farmer, filling a table, telling a story.
To find the location nearest you that has Mary’s products, check here.
Images via Morgan Ashley Photography