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Local vs. Organic Food?

Fields and Sky from Creative Commons

Is organic food a good buy? In terms of health benefits, there is a lot of junk that USDA Certified Organic food is not allowed to contain. In that sense, it is far better than conventional food products. However, there are only a couple things the consumer really knows about certified organic food:

1) It’s manufactured by a company whose standards and practices have gained the approval of the large and arguably unwieldy United States Department of Agriculture.

2) It’s manufactured by a company whose brand may have a certain amount of name recognition and trust associated with it. Many of these companies are owned by large conglomerates, though.

3) It’s manufactured with a high percentage of certified organic ingredients (from whatever source they may come from) which are clearly disclosed on the back of the box.

4) Or, if it’s a fruit or vegetable, it was USDA Certified Organic at its source but no one person really knows everything that has been done to it between there and here.

Organic Industry Structure

 

Local food is all about knowledge of food and reduction of transportation costs. Farms that primarily sell locally will often be small farms. Small-scale farmers may choose not to USDA-certify their crop, but they will usually tell the customer how they grew the plants or animals. There are also some smaller, private certifying organizations which some farmers opt into as a way to confirm their farming standards.

1) With local food, you can sometimes even see it growing in the field. If not, you can talk to the man or woman who picked it. You buy it direct and know that nothing else has happened to it.

2) With local food, there are not dozens of middle-men who handle the food between harvest and purchase. The farmer and other workers get a much greater chunk of the profit this way.

3) Local food minimizes transportation costs. For every grocery store selling tomatoes in my town, there is a farmer or two selling them at markets and in CSA boxes. Why buy tomatoes from thousands of miles away when they are equally available locally?

4) This brings us to the point of seasonal food: Farmers only have fresh tomatoes available for a few months a year in some climates, which encourages consumers to preserve them for the winter and primarily eat foods that are in season. Coincidentally, this is better for us anyway.

Yes, USDA Organic food can have its place. It has its advantages over conventionally-grown food. But locally-grown food (especially if it’s naturally grown) is by far the best. Not only does it encourage knowledge about food and save on fuel costs, but it also encourages home cooking and seasonal eating of whole foods. Buy local, especially while farmer’s markets are still going strong this summer!

Grassroots Renaissance

“We are in the midst of a renaissance that is happening from the grass roots.

We are seeing a resurgence of home gardens,

home schooling, and a genuine heart-based culture.”

– Ed Bauman (founder of the culinary

and nutrition school Bauman College)

Farmers' Market, by Miss Jenny


People are realizing the dearth of relationships and goodness in a technology-driven, consumerist-minded, impersonal culture. Advances in technology have tended to fragment our lives in some ways, yet lately technology has made possible some better things, for instance, more telecommuting from home as work and websites are accessed remotely. Western Civilization, while established upon a Christian worldview, has forsaken many good principles and is moving headlong toward crisis. When things get out of hand, people return to the basics and start over with the rudimentary things they know—which often end up being the most fulfilling anyway.

In addition to noticing poor trends in Western culture, people are also realizing the wisdom of many Eastern practices, which tend to place more emphasis on nurture, holism, and the connectedness of faith and lifestyle. For instance, mothers in Africa and Asia carry their babies and keep them close, while North American and European mothers allow their babies to have more dependence on other people and artificial nurturing-type environments: swings, cribs, strollers, nurseries. It is societal here to have babies as detached from their mothers as early as possible, and is viewed as liberating progress. Yet, it is normal in Eastern countries for babies to be dependent primarily on their mothers and for the mothers to be unabashedly dedicated to their babies. After at least half a century of straying from a nurturing mindset, Western mothers are slowly returning to the wisdom that many Eastern families have followed all along.

From baby-carrying and homeschooling, to telecommuting to entrepreneurship to gardening, people are realizing that it feels best to do something ourselves with the people we love—and to do it practically and simply.

Food and healthful lifestyles are areas in which a real renaissance in happening. It has been called by numerous names: a revolution; a resurgence; a reformation. Ultimately, people are feeling a crisis—that the current ways of fragmented lifestyles, refined foods, and conventional healthcare are not delivering on their promises. People are becoming more willing to take things into their own hands, to research wisdom and truth, and to return to the roots—building things back up from the grassroots level.

Not satisfied with the decisions of large corporations and government agencies regarding the food and health industries, people are taking things into their own hands. This is exactly what needs to happen to restore people’s authority over, and knowledge of, their own diets, wellness, and lifestyles.

Life: Wherever there is Green

The benefits of green plant foods for good health are being proclaimed far and wide as an too-neglected but ultra-rich source of nutrients. Green foods alkalize the body, provide fiber and enzymes for digestion, contain antioxidants which promote detoxification, and are full of necessary vitamins and minerals. I’d like to make note of several ways we can consider green foods as beneficial:

1. Green plants are always an indicator of life, across the globe and even in the sea. Not only do green plants represent the presence of water and living things in a landscape, but green plants are life-giving to mankind as well. They are a potent source of nutrients which keep the body’s cells alive and functioning optimally. This fact is why many people—vegetarian or not—desire the majority of their diet to consist of fresh or lightly-cooked plant foods, of which many will invariably be green.

2. Some people emphasize the fact that a vegetarian diet offers the greatest amount of green plant foods. However, I’d like to contrast exclusive vegetarian eating with another thought. All of the most wholesome and biblically-clean foods receive their nutrients from green plant matter! In addition to eating vegetables, leaves, seaweeds, green seeds, and soaked or sprouted nuts and grains (in which the nutrients inherent in growth and life are again present), we still receive the benefit of green matter by consuming flesh and dairy products from grass-fed animals. Grass-fed meat, such as beef, takes on the nutrients of green grass. The nature of grass-fed meat is a world apart from the fat and muscle structure of factory-grown animals fed on corn (which, some argue, is a grass or seed—but not this corn!—nor is it green). Green-based nutrients can remain in the milk, eggs, and meat of animals. Of course, it is great to eat many raw green plant foods, but that isn’t a reason to avoid meat and dairy which can, when properly chosen, still get their composition from green foods.

3. Dr. Weston Price observed a nutrient, called Activator X and now known as vitamin K2, in the milk and fat of animals which had been fed on green mountain meadows. When cheese, for instance, was made with abundant raw milk from the summer grazing, the aged cheese still retained the same X factor—though dry and cured and far from “green” itself. Foods made from such cow’s milk nourished native people groups to such an extent that Dr. Price sought out the nutrient that led to their pristine health—and attributed it to the grass-based milk of grazing animals. Organic, raw, or imported European cheeses are the best choices toward acquiring this nutrient, though “homegrown” milk and cheese would be optimal.

4. Speaking further of meat, I think it remarkable that the animals distinguished in the Bible as “clean” are all vegetarian herbivores. So even in consuming the meat of clean creatures, we should be one step away from green vegetable matter. Filters and scavengers and carnivores, on the other hand, thrive on carrion, garbage, and even processed food if given the chance. The meat of “unclean” animals becomes an imitation of the foods they feed on. Since human bodies also take on the characteristics of food eaten, I would much rather receive the nutrients of live green matter from the meat of an herbivore, than toxins from dead matter in the meat of a scavenger.

5. It’s not enough to theoretically know about green plants. We must actively make them a large portion of our diet. Children are often allowed—and I’m afraid, encouraged—to think that green foods are “nasty” and “yucky.” That attitude is not harmlessly cute; it is false and detrimental to their livelihood. Instead, people of all ages can teach and model the truth that green foods are full of life and are gifts of God worthy of our full appreciation. Let’s avail ourselves of this nourishing goodness and thrive on the plants we are eating—and on the plants which our meat and milk has eaten!

The War on Decentralized Food

The FDA is emboldened. Recent raids on Rawesome Foods and Rainbow Acres attest to this. Despite public outcry, the agency continues to target private associations and the farmers who supply them. Clearly, the FDA understands that they are wading into sacred turf. They are meddling in private transactions, not public ones. Local ones, not inter-state. And they are taking the bone from the hungry mastiff. But they are emboldened by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and they are strutting out. This is the result of bad policy; bureaucrats begin to act as if they are above the consent of the governed.

The FSMA is bad policy which "leaders" of the local and organic movements supported. Pollan and Schlosser endorsed it. They must have been drunk when they wrote that piece for the NYT. Or under the influence of executive pressure. Either way, they abandoned the roots of the movement. The bill passed and we are only now beginning to see the results.

And don't be fooled into thinking that the Tester Amendment made FSMA tolerable for small farms. That amendment was no friend of freedom. It presupposed FDA authority over small farms selling local, direct, and intra-state and required them to prove themselves exempt. In other words, the government puts the burden of proof upon the heavily-tasked small farm. And it turns the tables on constitutional functionality.

There is one way forward, maybe two. FSMA needs to be marginalized, either by defunding or repeal. In our current environment, defunding seems to be the most obtainable but it is not a long-term solution. The other way forward is to convince our state and county leaders to push back and fight. This is certainly the method anticipated by our forefathers. If you have any other ideas, please share them.

A view from the inside of the local farm cartel

buy and preserve peaches in bulkOk that’s more than a little sensational.  What I am referring to is more like a local farm network.  Last week a friend sent me an email that a local family had peaches for sale.  It was not just your average deal on peaches it was 50lbs of peaches for $20 to $22 dollars depending on the variety.  For seconds that included some peaches with blemishes, the price was around $15 dollars for 50 lbs.  What a deal!  That’s 30 cents a pound.  Of course my wife and I had to employ some basic food preserving skills.  Luckily we both knew how to use a knife and also how to put sliced peaches in to bags and the bags into the freezer.  Whew.  I quickly found out that, contrary to popular belief it does not take a factory to freeze peaches.  There are many simple pleasures in being involved in growing or processing your own food.  My old timey books talk about shelling peas or shucking corn like it was some kind of social event.  I get it!  There is just something about this family food processing stuff.

I will admit it takes a little work, but I estimate that I ended up with about 30lbs of sliced peaches frozen.  The last time I checked at the grocery store frozen sliced peaches were $2.99 per lb.  When you do it yourself all of the peals and pits go into your compost bin.  That will eventually provide nutrients to improve your garden soil and provide more food.  I probably wouldn’t have known about the deal if I hadn’t heard about the craigslist ad from a friend.  I hope in the future more local people will use craigslist.org to sell farm and garden extras.  It really is the beginning step in de-centralizing our food supply.  When we receive cash for crop there is incentive to do a little better with that crop the next year.   If we save our contacts in an email list it will be much easier to sell a little more next year.  I wonder how much fruit goes to waste on local trees.  By using the internet to quickly market food while it is ripe the owner can put a little cash in his or her pocket.  There many properties around with fruit trees on them, but not many people want to sit on the side of the road or travel to a farmers market to sell the fruit.  The local food movement is all about making use of the resources all around us.  Marketing products to a network of local families is a great way to do that.  As you can see I am pretty pleased with this year’s peach transaction! The good thing about fruit trees is that they produce fruit every year.  I am going to save the phone number of the family selling peaches and I hope to get a similar deal on fresh local peaches next year.

 

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