How Milk, A Cow and A Few Chickens Taught Me A Lesson

Endless meadows, hayfields, grasslands. Curvy roads covered in gravel. A house once every two kilometers. And this does not seem quite like an ordinary classroom setting. Yet it turned out to be one -a classroom filled with lessons- let me explain you how:

Are you someone that loves contrasts? Someone that loves to spend money on an amazing dinner out with friends? And sometimes enjoy the times the most that did not cost you a penny? Well then, I believe we have something in common.

I am fascinated by big and buzzing cities. All these different people, different characters, all the diversity. Yet I love the countryside. It gives you room to turn your view inwards. It allows you to shift your attention in the lack of the omnipresent stimulus saturation that we are subjected to in our daily lives. Things change slowly in the countryside. But they change profoundly. And they can change you, too.

For about a week I have called a little and remote farm my temporary home. The very first day the first doubts popped up in my mind. No supermarket in a walkable distance. Rather a 40 kilometers drive with a car I do not have. I figured that I am stuck. No opportunity to buy a thing. Not even a way to leave this place by myself without my host taking me in her car.

So how did this change my views? Isn’t it even a bit contradicting that I perceived the above mentioned circumstances as adverse? I am having all that I need; food, a warm shelter, running water, clothing, a cozy bed, electricity and yes even Wi-Fi. And yet my very first gut reaction was to miss the supermarket. In fact, all that I have here is probably so much better in quality than anything I could ever get from the convenience store. Eggs, milk, cheese, butter, strawberries, potatoes…

We do not need so many things. In the end it always comes back to a few things, food, clothing, shelter. It is a luxury that we have attained such a high lifestyle of endless opportunities for consumption and self-realization but we are at the same time often living at someone else’s expense and disregarding the fact that yes just as many of our parents taught us when we were little: Others may not be so lucky to enjoy all these luxuries.

That is why it is so essential to leave your comfort zone, go live in the countryside, go do that camping trip and go realize that all you need is in fact so little! We need to learn to appreciate and value the things we are given more. Many things have been commoditized but we need to ask ourselves at what price.

Milk in the supermarket is as cheap as it could possibly be because huge industrial companies have completely toppled over traditional agriculture. All of which to the detriment of small producers that still treat their cows well but have to invest so much time and money that their milk sells more expensive. Eventually, in the face of low price competition they have to resign and dedicate to other means of making money for pure survival. I understand why so many people nowadays are turning vegan! I believe this is only one way to approach the matter. We could also simply pay more attention to the quality and origin of what we buy. We need to stop being ignorant consumers and make a statement by what and how we buy. And we do not need to make such drastic changes. A lot of substitute products come at an even higher (environmental) cost than your local milk.

I took roots in this new yet age-old place. And besides ended up enjoying life without a single opportunity of spending money. After all, hadn’t I been complaining about not having enough money and being a poor student all the time? 

Svea Freiberg

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