Food for Thought: Why You Should Buy and Eat Local Foods

How many of you have been to a local farm market or store? Have you ever thought about the stark contrast between a farmers’ market and a supermarket? What do you prefer? Produce picked this morning or a week ago? Walking around outside seeing the farmers who are growing the food you are buying or pushing a shopping cart through the aisles full of miserable people in a box-store with lacklustre customer service?

The choice is easy for me and after thinking about it, the choice should be easy for everyone. Not only is the food coming from farmers’ markets fresher – which leads to better taste – but also foods grown locally generally have less environmental impact, promote food safety and security, support the local economy and help to create community. There are some difficulties that come along with shopping at farmers’ markets (seasonality and variety of products available) and obviously it is impossible to cut out supermarkets completely, but the benefits of eating and buying local food are definitely worth the bit of extra effort.

Produce found at the farmers’ market is the freshest and tastes the best. The fruits are allowed to ripen in the field and brought directly to you, which means no long-distance shipping or sitting in storage for weeks before you buy it. Not only do supermarkets warehouse produce for long periods of time, but also most of the food is highly processed and the produce that is available is generally grown on large-scale monocrop farms. Industrially farmed food often requires exorbitant amounts of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics, and more often than not, is grown using genetically modified seeds. Additionally, food being shipped long distances is usually waxed or gassed in transit (to promote ripening), which could be potentially harmful to the person ingesting it.

In contrast, local farmers generally go to great lengths to grow the best produce possible. Small-scale farmers have the ability to use alternative methods to combat pests such as integrated pest management – a practice that involves planting several types of crops that help deter pest – or methods such as crop rotation or the use of nitrogen fixing plants to replenishing soil fertility. If pesticides are used, it is in smaller amounts (due to the size of the farm) and generally done in a safer approach compared to crop-dusting used in industrialized farming.

Not only do local markets promote food safety, but also food security. Creating a demand for more locally grown food decreases our dependency on fossil fuels, which will become a necessity because today’s corporate-led industrialized farming is clearly unsustainable.   Resources used to grow our food at this level come from finite and increasingly costly energy sources – for growing, watering processing and transporting food in this manner producing one calorie of food costs anywhere from a 7:1 to a 10:1 ratio in energy consumed (McAdam 46).

Food purchased at the supermarket uses large amounts of natural resources and contributes to pollution and excess garbage in our landfills. Supermarket food travels an average of 2,500 km to get to the store; whereas, food found at the local farmers’ market is transported shorter distances, usually less than 300 km, and is grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth (Farmers’ Market Ontario). Another important natural resource affected by large-scale industrial farming is water. “Agriculture accounts for some 70 percent of water use worldwide and is considered particularly inefficient, returning only about 25 percent of water consumed back into the water table” (McAdam 122) and the water that is returned is contaminated.

An additional benefit from supporting local growers is that you are in turn supporting the local economy and community. Farmers at markets are receiving 100 percent of the revenue from the foods they are selling instead of profits padding the pockets of corporate bigwigs. At farmers’ markets they have the opportunity to determine the value and price of the produce. Supermarkets on the other hand require producers to accept a fairly low selling price to ensure a high profit margin for themselves and make it nearly impossible for local growers to have their product on these shelves due to standardization of size, shape and quality, removing what I see as the authenticity of freshly grown produce (McAdam 82). Shopping local becomes more about the atmosphere and surroundings at the market and less about the fast-paced, in-and-out trip to the store. It allows you the chance to connect with your community, plus you get to have face-to-face interaction with those who are growing your food.

As I mentioned earlier, shopping at farmers markets does not come without difficulties. They are often held at inconvenient times, or in obscure locations, seasonality poses issues of diversity and many people assume that the costs are significantly higher (and sometimes they actually are), but costs incurred cannot be simply linked to monetary means. We have to address the costs on all levels, environmental, health, local economy, social and budget.

Farmers’ markets are a great way to buy and eat local but if they are not available, there are other options. Programs such as Community Supported Agriculture, where you pay an initial investment and receive a season of weekly boxes of assorted fruits and vegetables or SPIN farming, where a farmer turns your unused backyard into an urban farm or market garden, generally in return for a portion of the harvest, are both alternative means to shopping at supermarkets for produce.

The importance and benefits of supporting local markets will become increasingly more apparent the higher fuel prices climb. The dependence our food system has created on cheap fossil fuel is unsustainable and the disconnection it creates between society and the source of our food is a shame. So next time you run to the supermarket ask yourself this, what is the real cost of those out of season raspberries transported from California? Or the bananas flown over 6,500 km from Ecuador? Think about the power your hard earned money has and use it instead to support sustainability, not degradation.

An essay by Lisa Balkenhol

Works Cited

Farmers’ Market Ontario. The Benefits of Shopping at the Farmers’ Market. MyMarket. 2008. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.my-market.ca.

McAdam, Rhona. Digging the City: An Urban Agriculture Manifesto. Rocky Mountain Books. Toronto, Canada. 2012. Print.

 

Salted Brick Sets the Bar

Local trendy restaurants are popping up everywhere these days but it is Kelowna’s Salted Brick that seems to definitely have a leg up on their competition.  It’s chef Jason Leizert’s passion to provide food rooted in the work of local farmers and artisans that truly sets this quaint charcuterie apart from the rest.

The Salted Brick describes modern Okanagan dining, both in its sourcing of local ingredients (such as North Thompson farmer, John Clops’ naturally raised pigs) and a short but dynamic wine list,  but also in its design, which is a model of functionality. It was designed by Jorin Wolf and built on a modest budget: along one brick wall lies a banquette that runs the length of the dining room. Opposite is where chef Leizert whirls between his Rational oven, fridges and prep station. Much like a sushi chef, he’s available for consultation and commentary at any time. – THE FOOD GUIDE JOURNAL by JAMIE MAW

Since moving away from Kelowna I often yearn for their signature beef brisket sandwich but when I do make it back lunch at Salted Brick is always on the itinerary.

For more information check out Salted Brick’s website.

 

 

Farms Raising Livestock and the Standards.

Two Rivers Specialty Meats is a company based in North Vancouver that I first found when converting to my EO diet.  The story of the company’s humble beginnings, an idea sparked by the owners while living in a yellow school bus situated next to the Kicking Horse River in Golden, BC, is somewhat awe inspiring. Owners Margot and Jason Pleym quit their city jobs in 2007 to start a wholesale meat company that focused on the values they believed in. All their products are locally produced, hormone and antibiotic free, ethically and sustainably raised, and of course, absolutely delicious, which I can solemnly attest to.

Not only did these two see a need for such a product, but took the initiative to create a business that made ethical meat more easily accessible to people by connecting chefs, retailers, restaurants and consumers to the local farms who provide their products.

For more information or to find out where you can purchase Two Rivers products visit their website at www.tworiversmeats.ca

Perspective.

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod

The Story.

A little less than nine months ago I made the decision to stop contributing to the unethical treatment of our meat-supplying animals after watching a compilation of videos that a fellow classmate had constructed for our Food & Society class, which addressed the issues of factory farms and animal cruelty.

I am the first person to admit that I love meat! But, I also realize that our current culture’s obsession with animal protein – especially bacon – is really quite absurd. I genuinely believe that animals are, for better or worse, part of the biological food chain, and us being at the top of said food chain are biologically dependent on animals for nutrients. Yes, I know all those vegetarian/vegans out there will point out that we can gain all our essential amino acids, proteins and vitamins without consuming animal flesh, but it really does taste f**king amazing!

To put my beliefs in line and practice what I preach, I have chosen to pursue the diet guidelines of an ‘ethical omnivore’. Now, there may be many definitions of what this means, but to me it means refraining from eating any animal product that was not ethically raised. In doing so, I often choose vegetarian dishes, especially if I’m eating at a restaurant, but more and more establishments (particularly new local eateries) are choosing to opt for locally and ethically sourced meats, which in turn makes me select these restaurants over others!

Meat is most certainly not the only animal product that we should be concerned about when it comes to animal welfare; any dairy product should follow the same ethical guidelines.

It can seem like a bit of a daunting challenge to alter the way we are so accustom to shopping, and I know it definitely took me time to source out products that fall in line with my beliefs but once you put in a little effort, it definitely goes a long way. Not only are the animals, that we have become to rely on, treated in a more humane way but the potential health benefits that we as consumers would stand to realize would also be numerous (antibiotics and growth-hormones can’t be good for anyone to ingest).

My adapted diet is far from perfect, it remains a work in progress, but I do believe that every time I put my money where my mouth is (literally), I am working towards a better future by recovering the relationship that we have lost with our food through the industrialization of farms.

Why?

I don’t intend for this to be a lecture about all the things that are wrong with the current state of our food production system, rather I hope it will become a resource to spread awareness, information and new ideas.

For the most part, the entries will reflect personal opinion and in doing so, I will try to encourage readers to not necessarily change their eating habits, although that would be ideal, but more so to be conscious of the benefits/consequences that our food purchasing practices have on the world around us.

– Lisa