“Imagine if we had a food system that actually produced wholesome food. Imagine if it produced that food in a way that restored the land. Imagine if we could eat every meal knowing these few simple things: What it is we’re eating. Where it came from. How it found its way to our table. And what it really cost. If that was the reality, then every meal would have the potential to be a perfect meal. We would not need to go hunting for our connection to our food and the web of life that produces it. We would no longer need any reminding that we eat by the grace of nature, not industry, and that what we’re eating is never anything more or less than the body of the world. I don’t want to have to forage every meal. Most people don’t want to learn to garden or hunt. But we can change the way we make and get our food so that it becomes food again—something that feeds our bodies and our souls. Imagine it: Every meal would connect us to the joy of living and the wonder of nature. Every meal would be like saying grace.” -Michael Pollan
How many of us purchase produce from the grocery store and don't give it a second thought? Do we ever stop to think about the process, the cause and effect, and the end result of the food we consume? What questions do we ask when choosing the fuel that provides nutrients and energy to our bodies? Did the farm that grew the cucumber on your salad use harmful pesticides? Did your tomato originate from genetically modified seeds? Does the industrial farm that provides produce to your local supermarket use synthetic fertilizers and man made nitrates for increased yield in their crop?
CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) are a great way to really understand where your food is coming from. Joining a CSA is similar to starting a friendship with your local farmer. Some of the benefits of joining a CSA are simple, you receive a weekly share of farm fresh produce, you know where it came from, how it was grown and cultivated, and you know your purchase increased that farm's sustainability. But some of the benefits are much more complex. By supporting your local farmer, in the long run you are helping lower your carbon footprint. You are lowering "food miles" by not supporting large industrial agriculture.
Industrial agriculture is currently the largest and most dominant food production system in America. It is characterized by large-scale monoculture and the heavy use of man-made chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The chemicals for increased food production were developed in the years after World War II. This approach to farming places a heavy emphasis on growing a few crops (corn, soybeans and wheat) that forcibly end up being feed for animals, biofuels, and processed ingredients for junk food. The chemical heavy farms were now able to grow the same crop, year after year, where in the past they would have to alternate breeds due to the nutrients in the soil being depleated too quickly for productive growth.
Health and environmental concerns are another hidden cost of industrial agriculture. From the beginning of the farming boom in the mid 20th century, this form of agriculture was sold to the public as a production miracle. The efficiency it brought would allow food production to keep pace with America's rapidly growing population. It would ensure that farming remained a profitable business. But that growth came with an unforeseen price. There has been damage to the soil, water and climate, much of the damage is still unknown. Repeated monoculture depletes the soil of much of its nutrients and leaves it extremely vulnerable to erosion. Chemical fertilizer run off adds to global warming emissions and created oxygen "dead zones" at the mouths of its waterways. pesticides pose a risk to wildlife and can harm humans as well.
If we all took the time to understand where our food comes from, and what effect the process has on our health, environment and community, we might be in a better place. Make the effort to support your local farmers and growers. Think of the impact your choices have on world today, and our world tomorrow.