Friday, May 1, 2009

Buying locally grown food

Here are a couple questions about local food and some answers.

Q1. What's the matter with the food I buy in the big chain grocery store?

A. To tell you the truth, there's not a whole lot wrong with it. . . mostly. . . .if you don't mind a few extras with your food that may or may not be real good for ya. With modern bio-technology and transportation, our grocery stores are full of an amazing array of fresh and preserved items that one couldn't have imaged just a couple short decades ago. Back a bunch of decades ago, we only ate fresh what was in season. All our fish was frozen that we didn't catch ourselves and limited in variety. Today a person from 100 yrs ago would be spell bound by what is sitting on the grocer's shelves.
That said, all the technology that allows factory farms to produce those products is sometimes not good for our systems. Produce is grown using tons and tons of fertilizers. Where do those fertilizers come from? Who monitors what exactly goes into and comes out of fertilizer production units? The gov't mostly relies on the good intentions of the mega-corporation that produce these fertilizers to do so in a proper and safe manner. Then, they rely on the good intentions of the mega agri corps to apply and monitor the use of these fertilizers. How about pesticides? These are some of the most poisonous chemicals used by people. Are they always applied properly? Is "proper" actually safe?

When I hit the grocery store I love grabbin me some packs of that cheap chicken, pork and beef. Mmmm, mmmm good. But how do they produce those cows, pigs and birds so quickly? I'll tell ya: growth enhancers, hormones, and other supplements. They use huge amounts of anti-biotics to keep disease from spreading in the horrendously crowded factory barns.
And the slaughter? Oh, it's ugly. There is no regard for the animal itself. These animals live miserable lives and die miserable deaths.

So as you can see, the question raises more questions. Oh, I could tell you how factory chickens are raised and it would horrify you. I could detail the chemicals in pesticides and the nutrients in commercial fertilizers and you'd be stunned. Go ahead, look around on the internet. Find out where you food comes from and how it's handled.

Q2. Is locally grown food that much better?

A. Usually it is and sometimes it's not and sometimes, what appears to be local is actually imported.

First lets address the "faux local stuff. If you go down to your farmer's market you will sometimes see folks selling items that are out of season. You will also encounter stands where everything is from a local distributor. If it's Jan. and some guy or place at the local market has tomatos for sale, you can probably get better, fresher and a wider variety at the big chains.

Ask questions. Find out who the person is selling the products. Where is their farm? How many acres of tomatos do you raise, etc.? You can figure it out pretty quickly is you're not too big a slack jawed moron.
Ask them how they produce. Are they organic? Do they try to produce as natural as possible? Some folks have to use some fertilizers. Most local producers do. Local meat producers can produce anything from an all natural pasture fed product to a barn raised corn fed growth enhanced slab of dull protein. Ask around. Find out what you're buying.

Investigate and ask people who really like good food about local products. It's available, but you've got to look for it. There's not a lot of support out there for local farmers.

You can find locally grown food that is very safe and healthy. "All natural": or "organic" is what you're looking for in good healthy food. That doesn't mean that everything you eat has to be like that, but you should try and eat as much of those items as you can afford and find. You will be healthier and your kids will grow up stronger. What's that worth to you?

As a farmer, it's hard for me to be objective sometimes. And, with a degree in biology and having had a professional career as a chemist, I can really complicate things.

If you want it simple and direct, check out this site. Go to the photo gallery they provide.

After you do, send me an e-mail if you're interested in locally grow, ethically raised, 100% organic feed and pasture fed, all natural poultry in the Charleston, WV area.


Stimpson said...

Another big plus for local food: a much smaller "hidden carbon footprint." Fuel has to be burned to get that brocoli in from California.

But for people like me who don't live within walking distance (or even a decent bicycling distance)of a farmer's market, it's pretty difficult to buy local and keep the carbon footprint small. I live just a 7-minutes walk from a chain grocery store, but miles away from any of the places in my city that sell lots of local produce. Sometimes buying local isn't compatible with green transportation, sadly.

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