(See Part 1 here)
The Power of Local
What’s wrong with having a few corporations control virtually every aspect of our sustenance? Far from abstract, the genetic and proprietary control of our diets by a handful of companies (Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta combined own an astounding 47 percent of the global seed market) directly robs consumers and farmers of the most basic right to choose what they will eat and grow. – Christopher D. Cook – “Control over your food: Why Monsanto’s GM seeds are undemocratic”
TheScott and I have been making the move towards getting more of our food from local sources. The nice thing about going local is, in addition to your food not traversing the hundreds or even thousands of miles (using fossil fuels and delaying the time from farm to table), you can visit the farm where your vegetables are grown and livestock is raised. My farmers are Erin and Patrick. They know my name and I’ve petted their dog. I know my food is grown in a way I ethically agree with because I have seen the crops.* Most community farmers and ranchers (at least in my area) will let you visit and see how they’re raising the plants and animals you’re about to put in your body and are counting on to keep you healthy. A brief search on the Internet didn’t locate a way to visit ConAgra and see where those meat and vegetables come from, but maybe if I can just track down a phone number, they’ll let me visit the facility, too. Big business ag is all about open doors. *eye roll*
Local Eats – Better Tasting, Better for your Health, Better for the Economy, and Better for the Environment
“When Froot Loops can earn a Smart Choices check mark, a new industrywide label that indicates a product’s supposed healthfulness, we know we can’t rely on the marketers, with their dubious health claims, or for that matter on the academic nutritionists who collaborate on such labeling schemes. (One of them defended the inclusion of Froot Loops on the grounds that they are better for you than doughnuts…” – Michael Pollan, Rules to Eat By
Eating mostly local isn’t practical for everyone (depending on where you live), but I am fortunate enough to live in an area where I can get most of my food from a local source. What has surprised me is the more I research, the more I’m finding it doesn’t have to be that much more expensive (the usual complaint against it). To eat local/organic inexpensively, however, does require a different way of acquiring food than hitting the grocery store on the way home from work.
Most everybody knows about farmer’s markets, so I won’t spend time raving about those (although they are a awesome!), but TheScott and I have a hard time feeding ourselves within our budget using that route. So what we did instead was join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and are proud to be members of Green Gate Farm’s CSA.
For those unfamiliar, a CSA is a farm share – you pay a share in the costs of starting a farming season, like seed money, and then when the harvest comes, you get a weekly share of the produce. This helps small local farmers keep their farms running because the money to start a season can be overwhelming and the income doesn’t start until months later. This way they get the money upfront, when they need it most, and can spend their time and effort growing awesome crops. Then shareholders get a variety of organic produce picked that morning! Yum! Check Local Harvest to find a CSA in your area. TheScott and I can’t say enough good things about it!
Don’t like the initial investment a CSA takes (or the breaks between “seasons” they frequently have?) Our good friend k! has been with Greenling for years now. It’s another awesome option for eating local produce, but instead of relying on a single farm, Greenling (and other similar programs, like Farmhouse Delivery) deliver a box to your door culled from a variety of local farms. This allows for a lot of variety in what you get and many of these services have options to add meat, dairy, honey, and a host of other local offerings in addition to vegetables. Greenling and Farmhouse Delivery are only available in Austin, but a lot of cities have a similar service, so check The Oracle for one in your area!
Lastly (maybe most importantly), no matter where you live, talking to your grocery about selling local, organic produce makes a difference. If enough people go in and demand it, it will start to happen. We don’t have to feel powerless, because we are the consumer – businesses exist to cater to us. For too long now, we’ve demanded cheap food, no matter what the cost to our health and environment, and that’s what we’ve been provided.Of course we pay for it in other ways, like rising health costs and taxes that provide ridiculous subsidies to corporate conglomerates.** (For example, from 1995-2009 we gave the state of Iowa 13.7 billion dollars for corn. That’s one state. One crop. Nearly 1 billion dollars of our taxes per year to a state with only 3 million people.<>) But if we demand quality food that keeps our bodies healthy and our planet in a reasonable shape, that’s what businesses will provide.
Do you have any suggestions for the realm on sustainable eats? Or your own foodie stories you’d like to share?
* And the pigs lounging all lazy on the dirt under their makeshift shelters. A few weeks ago when I was buying pork, Erin made a comment about what a nice pig she was and how hard it was to take her to the slaughterhouse. I had this moment of… “Do you tell all your meat buying customers the personality of the pig they’re about to eat, because that might not be the best sales technique…” Then again, the fact that she knows the personality of the animal shows a lot about how she and Patrick treat them. I’m pretty sure meat factory owners don’t know the personality of each pig. So I guess it is good to know I ate the hamsteak of a nice pig.
** Apparently this isn’t changing any time soon. According to ABC News the Senate, in their attempt to balance the budget, has voted against cutting handouts to wealthy corporate farms and is instead pushing cuts to provide aid for mothers and children living under the poverty level and cuts to support the FDA’s ability to police food safety regulations. *headdesk* Grist has an article that says a lot of what I feel.
+ Featured image by Nathan Freitas