Every Home Should be a Food Factory

Robert Rodale's 1969 editorial about the importance of growing your own food.

July 27, 2012

Much of the health trouble we have today is caused by the fact that our food goes through factories before we get it. Good, whole grains are taken into mills and processed in many ways for many purposes. Their rough outside coats are taken off, the germ is removed, the oil is dissolved out, and what is left is cooked and chemicalized into a variety of high- profit products with much less nutritional value. Such processing lowers the content of valuable minerals, vitamins, oils and protein, leaving the less desirable parts for us to eat.

Factory treatment spoils not only grains, but many other foods. Meats, vegetables, dairy products—you name it and chances are it goes into a factory to come out eventually in some less desirable form. Not only are good things taken out of our food, but bad things are added in many cases. Saturated fat is put into a long list of foods, and also sugar, salt, artificial colors and spices, synthetic preservatives and other chemicals. The government people in charge of protecting our diets have looked at each one of those additives and decided that in their opinion it is safe. But what they haven't done is to sit back and think of what they all mean when taken together on the dinner plate. The result is that people are eating too much fat, salt, sugar, starch and the other things I listed, because those things are magnified in food as it travels through factories and processing plants. 


Cost of food goes up as it is factory treated. Just look at your own shopping list. Per pound, you pay more for foods like TV dinners, instant potatoes, breads and cakes—the foods where almost all the preparation is done by the food manufacturers, and all you have to do is eat. In these days of rising costs and plenty of hungry mouths to feed, many people overlook the savings they could achieve by using food that is closer to its natural state and doing the preparation in their own kitchens.

Every home should be a food factory, at least to a certain extent. Then we could ourselves see what is being done to the food in processing. We would save plenty of money, have more nutritious food, enjoy better and fresher taste, and reap rewards in improved health. Sure, it will take a little more time and effort to do some of that food preparation yourself, but once you get the experience, it goes fast. Also, there is the convenience of having stores of larger quantities of food in your house, so you have to shop less often. If you deduct the time spent bucking traffic to go often to the store, then preparing food at home is seen to be less burdensome.

First step in doing more of your own food factory work is having a place to store grains, fruits, vegetables and meats. The modern home usually has a freezer, which is a big help in stockpiling foods, but often we lack a cool, humidity-controlled place for other foods. Old-fashioned homes had either a root cellar or an earth-floored basement. Those were ideal places for many foods, and a family could pack away a whole winter's supply of groceries. Lack of central heating also helped when it came to food storage. In the old Pennsylvania Dutch farm houses around here, it was 'a common sight to see smoked meats hanging from the ceiling of an unheated downstairs room.

At the Organic Gardening Experimental Farm, we have just completed the building of a modern food storage building, suitable for use on a farm or by a large family. Designed by an architect, it has attractive lines and so adds to the appearance of the farm. The walls are made of a double layer of concrete block, separated by plastic-foam insulation. The roof has broad eaves to shade the walls from the summer sun, and inside the floor is earth. Basic idea of a building like this is to maintain a constant cool temperature, summer and winter, and to have enough humidity in the air to prevent drying-out of fruits and vegetables. A fan keeps the air moving, and a small air-conditioning unit can be added to cope with very hot summer temperatures, if necessary.

Most homes already have some equipment needed to do more processing of the family's food, such as a refrigerator, sink, stove, ovens, large pots and a freezer. The modern trend is to use this useful equipment only for the last stages of food preparation, to get food warm for eating. But if you decide you want to save money and eat better by really processing food at home, many of the tools are there for you to use. 

There are certain other tools that will be a big help, though. First and foremost is a small electric grain mill. An excellent one can be purchased for about $150, and believe me, it is a good investment. You haven't lived until you have enjoyed regularly the taste of freshly ground grains. Fresh grinding is especially important with whole grains, because the germ and oils are still present. They go stale faster than the devitalized flours and meals sold in stores.

There are also big cost savings in using a home flour mill. You can buy whole grains in large lots for as little as 3 cents a pound, while you will pay about 10 cents a pound for meal  or flour. And if you buy processed foods made from meal or flour, the cost to you will be 20 cents a pound or more.

There is an interesting article about home flour mills in the March issue of The Green Revolution, a newspaper published by the School of Living in Brookville, Ohio. It is written by W. B. Booher, and has some good things to say about how to get raw material for your grinder, once you have one:

"Occasionally someone wants to know where he can buy good corn, wheat, oats, rye, barley, etc. One of the best places is of course from the farmer who raises the grain, and try to get it directly from the combine as it is being harvested. In this way you can be sure it has not been run over by rats and mice in storage; also that it has not been exposed to the strong fumigants used in most elevators. If you can make the acquaintance of a friendly farmer, not too far from your home, you can no doubt count on a supply from him each year. If you live in the central United States you probably have friends among farmers who can supply you; perhaps some farmer attends your church. In addition there are farmers and elevators in the country who cater to the retail trade regularly.

"If you take vacation trips by car anywhere in the central U.S. during a grain harvesting season, take along a few empty bags, and when you see harvesting in progress you can usually buy a bushel or two of wheat, corn or oats (and you may be able to arrange to have a supply sent to you each year). Should you arrive home from a vacation with a supply of freshly harvested grain you can have a real satisfied feeling that you're a pretty sharp provider for your family."

One of the most important reasons why food costs are so high these days is the long route that it takes between the farmer's field and your dinner table. All along the way there are people and companies doing things to the food and adding to its cost. By going direct to the farmer as much as possible, you give him a chance to profit a little more than he normally would, and make big savings yourself.

Another important food-processing machine that is finding wider uses these days is an electric fruit and vegetable juicer. It can be used to make a wide variety of tasty and healthful drinks that will be enjoyed by children and adults. It goes almost without saying that some of the worst and most unhealthful items of diet sold today are beverages, and I'm not talking just about alcoholic drinks. Lack of real nutritional knowledge by the Food and Drug Administration in Washington has allowed the marketing of artificial ades, punches, "drinks" and chemical substitutes for fruit juices that are a real abomination. Not only are they expensive and of wrong nutritional value, but because many are sold in cans and bottles similar to those used to pack real fruit juices, many people buy them thinking they are almost the same. The result is a diet too rich in sugar—which is liberally added—and too low in vitamins, can make the best use of a juicer, but city-dwellers can buy supplies of juicing vegetables and fruits from farmers, in season.

There has been a lot written about the supposed curative powers of raw juices. For those who aren't eating enough raw food, juices will prevent nutritional deficiencies. But raw juice isn’t a miracle drug. It is an excellent beverage for a family that is tired of the sweet-drink routine. If you aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals in your food, raw juice will help correct that deficiency. But don't overdo it. The pulp of raw vegetables and fruits also contains good food elements, which you get when you eat the whole thing.

Drying and dehydrating are good techniques to use to get more value from your garden produce, and to help stretch your food budget. People living in warm, dry climates can use the sun, but even here in Pennsylvania the local people use the lowest heat of their ovens to dry corn, beans and even apple slices. Dried foods aren't always as rich in vitamins as fresh, but they do have the minerals, protein and other valued nutrients, and a different flavor as well. That taste of home-dried food is something you just can't buy in a store, except perhaps a farmer's market.

Yes, your own home can be a food factory on a small scale, and it will pay big dividends. You will like the money you'll save, but especially important will be the better nutrition that you and your family will get.

With a power juicer, you can break out of the canned- and frozen-drink rut, by juicing a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits. Raw vegetables of many types taste wonderful in juice form. Carrots are probably the most popular vegetable for juicing, but also good are celery and tomatoes. Cress and other green leafy vegetables are used for accents.