Like many people we know, my wife Lauren and I have become more and more conscious and concerned about what we eat. I don’t just mean the “eat more veggies” type of thing because by many standards we felt that we were already eating very healthy – plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean meats, use more olive oil and less salt, quit the sugar, stop frying stuff, etc, etc. But what I’m referring to when I say what we eat is more than just knowing that it’s corn or squash or chicken. It’s about developing an awareness of where these food actually comes from and how it’s being grown and/or fed, and what we’ve learned has frankly been quite alarming. So much that I felt compelled to share a link to a documentary that I recently watched called “The Future of Food”.
The two overarching issues that come into play are personal health and health of your local economy and agriculture. These two issues are closely related and there are solutions out there that attempt to tackle both simultaneously.
Personal health is affected directly by the types of food that we eat. For example, much of the corn that is grown in the U.S. is derived from a seed that’s patented by Monsanto, a company with several thousand seed patents. This seed produces a genetically modified type of corn that actually contains the equivalent of a pesticide (Bt protein) within each kernel thus protecting the plant from the inside-out against insects and other harmful things. Sounds great if you’re wanting to produce a high-yield crop with little concern of damage from insects and other organisms. However, the long-term effects on the human body from consuming genetically modified crops is largely unknown. And it’s not just corn…
The other side of this is seen in the health of our agricultural environment. Continuing to use this genetically modified corn as an example, we find that approximately 60% of the U.S. corn crop is grown with one particular seed that’s patented by Monsanto. And since Monsanto also owns patents for a large number of other corn seeds they essentially control what goes into the ground. As the same type of corn is continually planted year after year other varieties of corn will eventually become extinct. The threat that this presents is akin to your entire stock portfolio being invested in one company. If that company tanks so does your portfolio. So if a particular insect or disease is harmful to this one variety of corn there will be a major catastrophe in that year’s yield. There are about 7,000 varieties of apples grown throughout the world. However, in the U.S., 80% of the apples grown come from only 8 varieties. As this illustrates, the demise of local farmers and the growth of commercial mega-growers has contributed to a large non-diversification strategy in our country’s food supply.
Understanding some of these concepts (and more) has led me down the path to search for solutions and alternatives. How can we as consumers source natural, non-engineered, organically grown crops? Where do we find them? How can we invest in local agriculture that will both increase environmental benefits and aid in crop diversification? Is there a way to benefit our local economies along the way?
These are all questions that we’re seeking the answers to. I’ll share a few tips that we’ve found.
Invest in a CSA farm – This explanation of CSA is pulled from the USDA website. “Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or “share-holders” of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production.”
Find a local farmer’s market- If you don’t want to buy shares in a CSA farm you can always find a local farmer’s market. Many of these markets are held weekly and allow you to meet your local farmers and buy produce that is locally and organically grown. You’ll receive the health benefits associated with healthy crops while supporting your local economy at the same time.
Here is a great website that explains the CSA concept in more detail and also has a great farm and farmer’s market locator.
Hope this helps! Happy eating.