By Tisha Casida
Navigating the landscape of one’s food and environment has become rather complex. Not even 100 years ago, my grandparents consumed organic food and preserved their immediate environment by nurturing the land that provided them food and conserving resources that were not readily available.
Today, we live in a country where our food supply is quite centralized. You will hear the anger directed towards “mega-farms” and the evil corporations that purchase small family farms to build these entities where hardly any humans are necessary to run the operations because of amazing mechanical and technological advances (the truth is, it is our fault as consumers that we let this happen). We, as consumers, create the market, and barring the unfortunate use of subsidies in agriculture – we as consumers really have the power to bring farming back into the hands of families and people who we can trust with our food supply. We must be willing to take actionable steps to support local producers, farmers, and ranchers.
Corn, a product with an interesting history and an increasingly present staple food for Americans (take a look at any packaged food product, you will likely see: high-fructose-corn-syrup (HFCS), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, modified food starch, and modified corn starch to name just a small list of corn-derived byproducts), is also a product that is often found being produced on those mega-farms. Even in smaller farms on the outskirts of agricultural towns, you can see signs for corn products (often these are testing genetically-modified corn products and/or insecticides/pesticides that can be used in tandem with the genetically modified product). Monsanto, if you have any time to research or if you are familiar with their overall mission in agriculture, is a company dedicated to changing the landscape of food production. Their “sustainable” mission is questionable at best, and their infiltration into the agricultural market (along with other large companies such as DuPont and Bayer) is deep.
This is, of course, all my opinion. The reason I have a strong one is because I was affected first-hand by the run-off water and copious amounts of chemicals poured into the agricultural landscape above the mesa where I grew up. After several years of sickness, I did enough research to figure out that food and my environment affected how I felt, and I drastically changed how I ate and what types of chemicals I exposed myself to. I, personally, know that power of a healthy food supply and nurtured environment.
Which is what we should all focus on. Food is medicine – it is the most powerful elixir of health and well-being because food is what we continually put into our bodies every day that builds every single cell and helps to initiate every single synapse amongst our nerves in our amazing biological system. Food, over the past twelve thousand (and maybe more) years, has a track record of affecting people’s bodies and minds. Food, and herbs, and other components taken from the earth, have a track record of preventing disease as well as healing disease.
Only recently (in the span of human existence, e.g., the past 50 years) have we noticed an extreme spike in diseases associated with the mutation of cells (cancer), obesity (heart disease), and people’s nervous systems (attention-deficit disorder, depression, and various others). Why? Is it because we eat foods that are so highly processed that the existence of nutrients in them is questionable? Is it because almost everything we eat has had some exposure to pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and genetic modification? Is it because of the federal legislation coming down the echelons of bureaucracy that is actually trying to control (also known as eliminate) local food production and gardening [see S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act]? Is it because our society is obsessed with taking a pill to feel better versus analyzing our fast-food, convenient-store, non-local food intake that may have caused the problem in the first place?
Food is medicine. Food is the building block of our life – for thousands of years there are traditions in every culture surrounding the creation and preparation of food. Today, many wonderful organizations exist that are attempting to educate our communities about the importance of food, having a local food supply, and seeking out small farmers, ranchers and producers where one can feel confidant about their purchase of products. If you know who is growing your food (and it is even better if you can do some of this yourself), then you can trust the nutrients that are in that food, as well as boost your local economy by keeping that dollar spent locally.
Grocery stores are starting to recognize this growing trend, with a natural/organic selection as well as signage for produce that is brought in locally. For many smaller, niche farmers, it is impossible to supply the kind of demand at these grocery stores, and opens up many unique opportunities for them to sell locally in micro-markets targeting a specific community. Everyone can eventually win.
I eat about a 75% natural/organic diet and supplement what I am eating with a “green drink”, fish oils, and various other supplements that I believe to aid my body in detoxing the other impurities that are abundant in places that I cannot control. I seek out local suppliers of my meat and milk because proteins are probably the most important building block and should be the most pure (again, coming from someone who is not a doctor). When the season starts, I purchase a part of a CSA (community-supported-agriculture), where I receive a share of a food every week. I go to local farmers’ markets and hold my producers’ feet to the fire in asking them how they grow their products or raise their animals – I, the consumer, keep them honest. In doing so, I protect myself. I also pay a little bit more than what I would pay at the grocery store for my food – that is because my food is my health care. If I take care of myself I won’t need prescriptions, or other forms of modern medicine that don’t seem to ever really help or heal.
We, as consumers, must be adamant about protecting ourselves, our food supply, and our communities. No one else will do this for us. Because we must be healthy before we can accomplish anything else, it has always been a personal mission of mine to educate myself and my readers about what they can do to build healthy bodies while creating strong local economies and protecting an environment where we all want our children and grandchildren to someday play without the fear of getting sick. The first step is to educate yourself on what you are eating, seek out local producers who you can trust, and then spend your money locally with these people. Here are some resources to help get you started.
Recommended Books on Our Food Supply
Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan – A fantastic read on our food supply, our constraints, and our options in how to engage with the products we eat.
Food Rules by Michael Pollan – A very simplified guide for what to eat and what to avoid.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – An in-depth journey through the creation of a small family enterprise that is self-sustainable and an integral part of other family enterprises in a community.
Food Politics by Marion Nestle – A well-researched book on the food industry’s deep involvement with what America eats and the politics behind “nutrition”.