Grit Blogs > Waking up in Kansas

Local Food Promotes Health and Independence

By K.C. Compton


Tags: MRSA, Locavore, Local food,

KC ComptonSeveral thought streams have diverged in my mind today to have me thinking even more intently than usual on the importance and value of locally raised and processed food.

The first thought is connected with the ongoing horror story that continues to emerge from Haiti, a country in which, among a multitude of other problems, its system of local agriculture has been completely destroyed in the past couple of decades, so that even people living in the countryside have been dependent on food and water being trucked in on a weekly basis. With the roads now destroyed, these people’s already precarious existence becomes even more precarious.

The second thought has to do with a University of Iowa study that reports a new strain of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacterium (sometimes called the “superbug”) was found in nearly three quarters of hogs and nearly two-thirds of the workers on several farms in Iowa and Western Illinois. All of these farms used antibiotics frequently and routinely.

On antibiotic-free farms, no MRSA was found. I don’t know any other word for that comparison but “stark.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, antibiotic resistance is now one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to antibiotic treatment. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can quickly spread throughout communities – including schools, hospitals and the workplace.

Microbes are becoming resistant to antibiotics for a variety of reasons – our insistence on using them at the first sign of a cold or flu for one thing – but certainly confined animal feeding operations and other conditions collectively known as “factory farms” are increasingly recognized as a source of these very, very bad bugs. I lost a friend a few years back to MRSA. It isn’t anything any of us ever want to see in our lifetimes, and yet 70 percent of the hogs studied in the University of Iowa study carried this bacterium.

The third thought contributing to this stream today is a much happier one. I’ve been editing stories about starting farmer’s markets and about how to make the products from your garden or your home craft projects attractive for sale at local farmer’s markets and craft sales. And that has me thinking about the deep satisfaction and pleasure to be had whenever I visit the farmer’s market my friends in Kansas City created, or when I talk with the small food growers I know here in our pretty, fertile area of Kansas.

My farmer friends in Kansas City are about to have their sweet little urban farm shut down because their neighbor wants to sell his house and he thinks those huge, wild gardens next door and the chickens clucking (no roosters!) and the visitors coming to learn about gardening all somehow diminish the value of his property.

I wish I were in the market for a house in Kansas City. I’d love to have a farm right next door with just about everything I’d need to sustain a pretty healthy life. That would be a huge selling point in my book. Clean food within 30 yards, no MRSA, no E. coli? Sweet! And if the poop hits the propeller from some social disruption or natural disaster, there could be much worse ways to get through it than hunkering down with the farmers next door.

mountain woman
2/12/2010 12:24:59 PM

Interesting article. I've suffered through a MRSA infection and lost the use of my leg for a year. Mine was contracted through carelessly walking through airport security with no socks during the summer when I was wearing sandals. I'm so careful now and that includes food sources as well. We are lucky to live in Vermont where the emphasis is on local food and also organic and now we are moving on to raising what we need. Fortunately, we have a large farm. I too would rather live next to a farm with animals any day. One of my pet peeves is people moving to our rural area and then complaining about the noises of the animals and other country ways of life. Thanks for a great article.


nebraska dave
2/11/2010 11:23:33 PM

KC, I am sure with you about the super bug. I personally believe the correct way to combat sickness is to do everything possible to keep the immune system in tip top shape. Our own built in Immune system is the best disease fighting machine known. If I do all that I can to keep it healthy, then I most likely will have a greater chance to remain disease free. The more I learn the more I’m convinced that should be my goal. It all hinges around healthy eating, drinking clean water, and stress free living. All these things are not easily accomplished in this day and age. This year I am striving to deal with these issues the best way I can. I still grab a fast food burger on occasion, but its way fewer times than a couple years ago. The blog entries here on Grit have helped me with many decisions on how to eat better, drink better, and live better. More and more communities are coming around to Urban backyard farming. I believe the Kansas City ordinance allows for 10 chickens with rules about distance from human habitation buildings. Of course that doesn’t mean that neighbors will be happy about it. Change comes hard but I see a real grass roots movement starting to make its way into backyards. Long live urban, backyard, bio-intensive, vertical growing permaculture.


kc compton_2
2/11/2010 3:17:26 PM

Thanks, Vickie. Maybe in the future people will realize more and more that having actual FOOD next door might not be such a bad thing! I'd sure rather have tomatoes and eggs than turf and a few mums. --KC


vickie
2/11/2010 3:05:35 PM

K.C., Such a good informative post-I feel so sorry for your friends in Kansas City -I've read that their is no proof that having chickens or gardens lower the property value -in fact I think that if you had a house like that it would be far more valuable today then the average house next door. vickie