Many people who are new to buying and preparing fresh healthy foods face a huge challenge: where to find it? Those of us who have sought healthy food for years and decades know the routine of hunting through stores, farmer’s markets and our own backyards.
In the mountains of Arizona, Coralee and I have our own farm where we grow fresh food all year long, have chickens for eggs, make cheese from raw milk and find local meats that are beyond organic. But while on tour—we ran out of the food we brought from home after the first week—the search for healthy food continues. We want to avoid conventional choices, and also don’t want to support the large corporate health food conglomerates like Whole Foods. We look to small family farms.
In Colorado, the local Arkansas Valley Organic Growers had great vegetables and meats, and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association supported our event in Columbus. At our Catskill Mountain base for the middle leg of our tour, small family farms are providing great vegetables, eggs and meats.
For millions of people, finding healthy food may be easier than ever with so many family farms selling their crops to the public.
Look for Local Family Farms
This has gotten easier in recent years, especially online. Check out Localharvest.org for listing of various types of local food. Beware: just because they claim to be homegrown, make sure they’re organic or otherwise all natural. Visiting the farm is worth a trip to see for yourself.
With the problems in the organic industry, including the easing of a strict standard in growing and producing the cleanest and highest quality foods, and the added bureaucratic costs due to the certification process, many truly health-conscious consumers are looking at this choice. Farmers markets are now part of the urban landscape, attracting weekend crowds. There are community organic cooperatives, roadside farm stands, and “pick-your-own” fruit and vegetable farms. These modern markets feature products grown in a “green” way — produced in line with the original organic movement. And, they often include a “buy local” slogan.
But the underlying problem is that there is no regulation regarding whether it’s “green,” organic or beyond organic. One problem is the notion that products that are better than organic — the “beyond organic” movement — should be more expensive. But just because products are grown with care, without chemicals, doesn’t mean they should be more expensive. Without the “middlemen”—typically two, three or more of them taking a share before products get to the retail stores—most of these products should be less expensive than the same or similar products in retail stores.
If you’re a careful consumer and talk to the farmers and those producing these products, and even visit their farms, you can usually find high-quality healthy products that are often better than the organic version in retail stores, often for less cost. Supply and demand will help “weed out” the overpriced products.
Growing Your Own
One option most people have is to grow some, or even most, of their own food. Surprisingly, it can be done easily, inexpensively, and legally, even in a very small piece of back yard or indoors. “Right to farm” laws help the small family farm.
Most ‘right to farm’ laws were enacted in the 1980s and today all U.S. states have them. It gives individuals the right to grow food, raise chickens and other animals and other activities. These laws do not give farmers complete freedom to do as they please, but they offer protection from local ordinances from claiming “chickens are not allowed” and other restrictions. Farmers must operate in a legal and reasonable manner to be eligible for the law’s protection.
In many states, right-to-farm laws supersede even local laws that might run contrary to them. In Pennsylvania, for instance, state law mandates that every municipality in the state “encourage the continuity, development and viability of agricultural operations within its jurisdiction,” regardless of whatever local laws may arise in opposition to this mandate
If you are unaware of the right-to-farm laws in your own state, you may wish to check them out here: http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/righttofarm/index.html
Lawn To Garden
Tens of millions of people farm the wrong kind of crop: grass. It often costs a lot but does not return anything other than having a nice green turf around the home. Putting that money into planting a garden would return many times that dollar amount in healthy, delicious food.
Ted Steinberg, author of “American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn,” says that the lawn if one of America’s leading crops with up to 40 million acres of turf.
Unfortunately, because of the way they’re maintained, many lawns are also toxic to the environment. “Lawns use ten times as many chemicals per acre as industrial farmland. These pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides run off into our groundwater and evaporate into our air, causing widespread pollution and global warming, and greatly increasing our risk of cancer, heart disease, and birth defects,” writes Heather Coburn Flores, author of “Food Not Lawns.” She says that the pollution emitted from a power mower in just one hour is equal to the amount from a car being driven 350 miles. And, Flores’ says, U.S. lawns consume around 270 billion gallons of water a week, which may be enough to grow 80 million acres of organic vegetables.
Taking part (or all) of your lawn to grow food is easier than you think. To research this idea, Google these topics:
– square foot gardening
– lasagna gardening
– SPIN (small plot intensive) gardening
– bio-intensive gardening
– no till/no dig gardening