Recently I "discovered" some documents from the 1970's that looked at what used to be grown here where I live. I was totally shocked to discover just how much of so many food items were once grown here- everything from wheat and barley to grapes and plums. Amazing. Somewhere along the way we just stopped doing it- it was cheaper to just bring it in from elsewhere. But that of course has left us in the precarious position of where we are today; totally dependent on a fossil-fueled transport system. We couldn't possibly feed ourselves at this point in my state. We don't have the farmers that we need, the infrastructure, the farm labor, equipment for grains or oil, or even the knowledge base. We have to start all over again.
I've been thinking about this as I'm giving a talk this weekend on just this subject. The conference was planned quite a while ago and is all about the issue of regional self-sufficiency in food and energy. I know, quite prescient of them to have planned this huh? Anway, I'm talking about food of course as usual. And specifically on this subject, so I've been going over in my head what I want to say about this.
Related to this however is just how shaky our food system is in this country. With all the hootin and hollerin about illegal immigrants, you should know that our food supply would take a major hit without their labor. Most Americans at present don't want to do the dirty and hard work of growing food, milking cows, etc. They also don't know how to do any of this either. I have to admit that I chuckle a bit at all the posts that just sort of mention that worst comes to worst they'll just have to throw some seeds in the ground and feed the family or something. Yeah right. You do that and get back to me- I want to know how well you're eating!
That brings up another thing. Buying local. It's really important. If you buy from your local farmer they'll stay in business AND keep you fed. They're a lot more dependable than someone from across the country(or the world). And if their food costs more than Mega-store? So what? I have to grit my teeth at the Farmers' Market when customers come over and tell me how cheap they just got blueberries or strawberries or whatever at the local chain grocery store- "buy 2 get 2 free" or something. They think they got a real deal too. What these people don't get is that these items are usually loss-leaders for the store. They lure you in there- and while you're there you also get some cat food, deli meat, bread, chips and salsa, etc. The store makes money off of you on these other items. I don't sell these other items- only fresh fruit and vegetables. And this doesn't even take into account that my fruit is organic, fresh picked and is NOT going to get you sick! And if you buy from me, I'll continue to be there- I live here-not across the country.
Our agriculture system is set up to favor huge producers. The NY Times has an editorial today on the danger that proposed changes to food coupons will have on small farmers. There is a really good program that puts coupons for fresh produce in the hands of senior citizens and lower income families. It's very simple- the coupons are worth $3 each- they use them at Farmers' Markets and we farmers just turn them in to get paid. Works well- the customers love it- it brings money to local farms- and lots of good food to these families. I KNOW that most of these people wouldn't even think of visiting a Farmers' Market otherwise- but here they are feeding their kids organic strawberries because of it! Anway- the proposed changes would require a switch to debit type cards- with required card readers. Most of us can no longer take food stamps because of this switch- this would do the same thing. Only large mega-farms will have these card readers- and all of us smaller ones will once again lose out. So anyway- I just see us going in the wrong direction again and again. And it's frustrating.
So- check out your local Farmers' Market or Food Coop- and buy local! Well, back to work- was just taking a "cool down" break- it's about 20 degrees warmer than normal out- strange weather we're having.....