Sunday, July 19, 2009

Suppporting good food

Our food system in the U.S. is complex. It's burdened with subsidies for production of foods that are perfectly good in their 'whole' state (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.) but are increasingly difficult to justify in their refined and remixed versions, in the plethora of processed foods available in the average American supermarket. Lots of folks have been trying to redirect this; the last Farm Bill authorization saw a big push to refocus encouragement of industrial agricultural production to at least some support to more locally-focused agriculture.

I went to a meeting of a local chapter of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association this afternoon. It was impressive because of the number of folks who showed up (at least 75 of them): local growers, local eaters, people interested in fresh food, people interested in delicious food, people interested in encouraging kids to eat nutritious food instead of junk, and folks interested in good, fresh food, period.

We met in a local historic setting, Farmer's Hall in Pendleton, SC, which has been a gathering place for people interested in promoting agriculture for almost 150 years. It was the gathering point that provided the genesis for the University where I work today.

How do we encourage Americans back to eating real food (that is, at least whole food, but hopefully fresh and local food)?

I really have no answers, but it definitely would be helpful to eat more delicious vegetables and fruits (whether your own, from the farmer's market, or locally fresh at the neighborhood supermarket). There are always delicious things harvested elsewhere (currently, fresh nectarines from California, for example).

Knowing where your protein comes from is a good thing, too. I'm working on trying to be more sustainable in my milk, cheese, egg, chicken, beef, and pork choices. Currently, good eggs are the easiest and most available, followed by milk and cheese.

But fish and shellfish require another level of sleuthing to be sustainable. I've stopped buying farmed salmon and shrimp, most wild-caught fish populations are in a downward spiral, so it's hard to justify buying many species of wild fish, whether local or from Asia. Wild Alaska salmon are from apparently well-managed fisheries, so presumably they're OK, but they're an exception.

We've been to many distant places well-known for seafood dishes that have not had much to offer in terms of locally-caught fish. Their fishing grounds have collapsed due to overfishing, often because of outside 'industrial' trawling, but just as often from local overfishing, too.

I didn't mean to start on an essay about sustainable food, but that's really what I'm thinking about.


  1. Good thoughts. In this world of fresh fruit and veggies from all around the world it is hard to think of having local, in season fruits and veggies. Better, but hard.

  2. I so totally agree with you about opting for natural foods. It is very tragic that junk food has just recently entered the lifestyle of Indians (urban ones anyway)at a time when people the world over are trying to move away from it.

  3. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  4. As you point out, not only natural but local. The amount of energy we use transporting food about is rediculous. Why not support local economies and grow our own, put up for winter what we can,and forget about the large grocery chains that used to be cheap but now find a thousand ways to get your $.

    Local is best, and better for our health as well. If we support local agriculture it will rebound and florish, and we will all benefit.

    Thanks for you great blog and thoughts.


  5. It sure is a dilemma; how are we going to convince folks to spend more money on better/healthier food when they are used to cheap fast food.

    We have a farmer's Market nearby where many organic dairy and 'meat' sources gather! We need to remember to take the cooler with us the next time we go.


  6. Eating so many vegetables from our own garden (and now freezing them for later in the year) is bringing home to me how delicious and fundamentally right it is to eat good food, but also how disconnected many of us are (in the developed world) from the raising of food. And how used we are in the developed world to having whatever we want in the supermarket (Janet, I totally understand.)

    So many wonderful cuisines from many different places are based on real foods (Sunika, we had so many delicious dinners, even in restaurants, in a recent trip to Southern India) that it's hard to make sense of the biochemical allure of junk foods except for that we humans are hard-wired to like salt, fat, and sweet

    And Jennifer, thanks for reading along - I enjoy posting my thoughts about what I'm doing in my garden and elsewhere. Welcome.

    And Bill- thanks for your thoughts, too. It is ridiculous to eat red peppers grown in greenhouses in British Columbia or Holland when field-grown red peppers are available from Florida (or in your own backyard).



I enjoy hearing from fellow nature lovers and gardeners. Let me know your thoughts.

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