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How Well Do You Know Your Food? June 2, 2008

Posted by Laura in Farm.

If you did a quick inventory of your fridge or pantry, could you identify the origins of the food there?  Where was it grown or raised?  How was it harvested?  What chemicals may have been applied to it or fed to it before it got to you?  And who produced it?  Who could you even ask?

The vast majority of Americans have no idea what the answer to any one of those questions is.  It is often said that the average food item in this country has traveled 1500 miles before we bring it home.  And, the only name we can put with that food is followed by a registered trademark symbol.  Hmmm…

For more and more of us, this aspect of our food chain is disconcerting.  With massive food recalls for beef, spinach, peanut butter, and so on, our faith in the industrialized production and distribution of our groceries is waning.  Even those so called “healthier choices” turn out to be a slight of hand- a major chicken producer was recently caught misleading the public by stating that its meat was antibiotic and hormone free, when in fact they just used less common drugs instead.  (At the moment, I won’t get into the deplorable conditions that require those medications to keep meat animals alive until slaughter age, but suffice it to say that I would be shocked to find out that it was possible to raise them without the drugs).

So, what is a consumer to do? 

Start with a little backyard garden.  Get a few tomato plants.  Plant some beans.  Let cucumbers climb your porch railing.  Anything you can grow for yourself will be healthier than what you can get elsewhere.  The best tasting, most nutritious food you can eat is picked shortly before it is served. 

If you don’t have the space or time for gardening, the next best thing would be to find a farmer’s market or Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) nearby and buy that local food.  In addition to fresh fruits and veggies, you can often find wonderful eggs laid by free-range chickens.  Special heirloom varieties will likely be available along with other tasty things that just couldn’t be shipped across country.  Grocery stores have to choose what can arrive intact at the sacrifice of taste and texture.

Go to the market when you have some time to stop and talk.  Ask questions about how the food was raised.  Get to know the person who grew it.  Not only will you feel better about what you are eating, but you will support the farmers in your area.  Then they will be able to afford to be there next year to provide even more of the things you like to eat.

So you don’t have the acreage or inclination to raise your own meat?  You still have choices.  Check the newspaper for classified ads.  Call your county ag extension office and ask for the names of local producers.  Many have programs to certify and further educate the farmers in the area.  (Joe recently completed the Master Beef Producers program- one that he felt was well worth his time and very informative.  We are just beginning our herd so we are not selling meat, but I’d feel good about buying from another person who has also been certified).  Many times you can go in with other people to buy halves or quarters of a steer that you know has been raised in a healthy way to stock your freezer with meat for months.  The arrangement usually includes instructions specified by purchaser about how the meat will be cut and then it is picked up from a USDA inspected packing facility.

Once you’ve become accustomed to real food, fresh picked when ripe and full of all the vitamins and minerals still, you’ll likely be hooked.  And all the healthier for it.



1. julie - June 3, 2008

We too are hooked!!! It is a wonderful thing to grow your own food. It just feels right.

grace and peace,

2. Laura - June 4, 2008

Julie, we’re with you. There is something not only therapeutic, but also so satisfying about digging in the dirt and watching your efforts return a bumper crop.

Today in the news, the government ordered Tyson to stop labeling their chicken antibiotic-free in the wake of the discovery that they had been lying to the public.

And tomatoes shipped to grocery stores around the country have given people who ate them Salmonella. Yet another reason to grow our own or buy from small farmers committed to clean conditions and quality!

3. Dreamer - June 4, 2008

Those are very strange but yummy looking tomatoes. What variety are they?

4. Laura - June 4, 2008

They were Pink Accordion tomatoes that we grew from seed a few years back. Good tasting, but unfortunately, those accordion creases allowed rot to set in easily when they were wet on the vine. Not enough made it to harvest to be satisfying. Benjamin is captivated by the picture (doesn’t remember them) and wants to grow them again next year. So many beautiful yummy choices and not enough garden!

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