I was reading the other day that the FDA has lifted its consumer advisory to avoid romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas region of California. I’m sure the growing community is happy to have this ban over with. However, this was the fifth recall on leaf crop grown in the area that I can remember, and I think it’s only a matter of time before we see this happen again.
Just today I read of a recall in 9 states on packaged hamburger because of plastic pieces found in the meat. There’s also currently a recall on food products containing hard boiled eggs from Georgia.
As my favorite farmer Joel Salatin would say…folks this ain’t normal.
The Ag industry often poses the growing world population as the biggest challenge to be solved. More people on the planet means higher demand for food. Not just any food, mind you, but cheap food. Because that’s what the average consumer wants. In order to provide the world with cheap food that is easily accessible, sacrifices need to be made. Those sacrifices usually come at the expense of the health of consumers.
The world population is growing, but I’m not convinced the biggest challenge we are facing is how to feed a growing population. The amount of fresh food that is thrown away every day is remarkable. Our demand for cheap food has created a system that is not sustainable and has exposed us to health risks that just weren’t present a few generations ago.
Something has to change.
That’s where you come in, dear heart. The homesteader. The small farmer. The hobby gardener. The consumer who demands access to nutrient dense food with a transparent footprint.
You may kindly point out that the grocery stores have given us access to a whole variety of fresh produce.
But did you know that the strawberries you buy (whether organic or not) in the grocery store has less nutritional value than the strawberries our grandparents ate? So do the carrots and the tomatoes and the blueberries.
Why is that?
Modern intensive agricultural practices are stripping nutrients from the soil our food is commercially grown in. Farmers are trying to meet the demand of consumers, who want year round access to the fruits and vegetables they love. These farms are on average 1500 miles from where their consumers live, so produce has to be trucked. Therefore, new hybrids have been developed that can handle being shipped long distances. These hybrids not only have lost most of their flavor but also lack the high quantity of vitamins we think we are consuming.
Compare the strawberries you buy in the store in December to the ones grown in your backyard and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
When you grow your produce in your backyard garden, you are not only providing your family with higher nutritional value, but you are revolting against a food system that isn’t environmentally friendly and has fallen short of keeping the growing population healthy.
But let me pause here.
Maybe being a contrarian consumer has little meaning to some who are reading this. I get it. Consider then the amount of money spent at the grocery store buying produce, especially with an organic label. For a limited amount of upfront cost, growing our own spinach, tomatoes, carrots and broccoli can save money.
Should I mention the health benefits of working in the garden? Working outdoors for an hour or so a day boosts your energy and is good for your heart. I’ve even read that microbes in the soil are known to have a positive impact on our mood. It was almost as if we were designed to garden.
Growing food isn’t as hard or time consuming as some might think it is. And even if it feels like you’re thumb will never be green, there are plenty of gardeners out there willing to help you get better.
But if you are in a position where you are absolutely unable or uninterested in growing your own food, buy local. Find a small farm in your community growing the kinds of food your family consumes. Get to know the farmer and support them with the money you would normally spend at the store. You’ll not only make a friend but your support will keep a small farm thriving and have an impact on the national food challenges we face. Where you spend your money matters.
Be well. Grow well. Live well.