Rethinking Our Food Supply

By Oz Girl
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Where does most of our food come from, and how has it been processed? I find this question occupying a significant portion of my mind these days.  I’m sure I owe some of my meditations to the ever-more-common media broadcasts of food-borne illnesses and large-scale contaminations.

In the past few years, there has been more concern about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our seed crops, along with a loud outcry against the abuse of hormone and antibiotic-injected animals in crowded, dirty feedlots. I know it’s getting more difficult for me to go to the supermarket and purchase vegetables, fruits, and meats when I know the processing methods are controversial or downright inhumane, and most likely harmful to our health.

Advocates for good stewardship of our planet, which includes a healthier food environment, have raised the public awareness about our industrialized food supply and all its connected society ills.  These advocates are tirelessly touting small-scale and sustainable farming as a way for us to get back to the local, seasonal and regional food supply with unending benefits for our health and our planet.

The book Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat heralds the growing movement of women who are at the forefront of changing how we eat and farm in the United States.  Certainly men are involved in this movement too – it’s just that women (as usual!) are not being given credit where credit is due.  For example, women are the fastest growing number of diversified farmers in our country, with a 30% increase in women farm operators from 2002 to 2007.

Think about it – women have always been the primary nurturer in the family unit.  Women have the largest impact and concern when it comes to what they feed themselves and their families.  So it only makes sense that they are the fastest growing demographic to own and operate farms in the U.S., and they are tending towards diversified, direct-marketed foods that create relationships with eaters.

Each chapter in Farmer Jane focuses on a different area of change – from “Building New Farm-to-Eater Relationships” to “Advocates for Social Change” to “Networks for Sustainable Food” — you’ll read the tales of women working to bring sustainability back to our dinner plates.  Trust me, this book will inspire and motivate you to have more control over your own food supply.  To help you, there is a Recipe for Action at the end of each chapter – ideas for how you as an eater, a farmer, or an owner/employee of a food business can join in. Even if you have no desire to farm or garden, there are many tips in Farmer Jane on how to eat well and help your community thrive at the same time.

I haven’t even finished the whole book, and yet it has already affected my food meditations. We have a distinct advantage since we already live on 27 acres in the country, and our first garden this year produced a fairly bountiful harvest with enough to preserve for winter, plus we learned a boatful about growing our own produce and preserving it.  Now it’s just a matter of expanding upon what we are fortunate enough to have (27 acres) – the possibilities are certainly endless and limited only by our capabilities and time (ah yes, the TIME bandit!).

I always say “start small”.  I can’t change all our ways and [bad] habits overnight; if I try, I’m going to overwhelm myself.  But I can pick a few items to change each month so that I will rely on commercial, grocery-store products less and less as time goes by. My goals are to buy less at the supermarket and make or grow more things ourselves, or source them organically through fair trade organizations.  As an example, I can’t grow my own tea or coffee, so I will source them through a company that has an organic and fair trade philosophy.  I bought my first loose-leaf black tea from Arbor Teas today, so I can still have my delicious iced tea everyday.  No more supermarket tea for this gal!

Next, I want to experiment with making my own shampoos and conditioners, and eventually my own lotions and perfumes. Yes, I want to make and source more than just my own food! If I can grow my own lavender, that might dovetail nicely with making perfume in the future.  I’ve done a small amount of research into the how-to’s, and it all seems very doable.

Read this book, research other books on the food industry, and start your own mini-food revolt.  You vote with your dollars every time you buy either chemical or non-chemical agriculture.  Think about it – if everyone can afford new cars, the latest cell phone or other techno-gadget, expensive jeans and shoes, etc. – well, then, you CAN spend more on your food.  Eating organic, seasonal, fresh food does cost a little bit more.  It’s up to you what commands more of your earned dollar – fun new gadgets, or fresh healthy food?

Make a conscious choice and “vote with your fork” to eat for a healthy body and for a more sustainable planet.  And visit the Farmer Jane website to find out more about this timely and information-packed book, along with links to some fantastic sustainable food and farming websites.