I came across this TED Talk on one of my Facebook friends feed who is an organic farmer. It’s good. Alan Lewis gives facts and figures of how we have had our food system taken over by big corporations. Today “the few” control what we eat, the way its produced, and simply have hijacked our food freedom. Our farmers lose. Today only 14% of our food dollars pay the farmer. As you can imagine a hefty amount goes to marketing and advertising. We lose too.
Alan Lewis encourages us to resist the misleading labels, advertising and promotions that we all know on some level are meant to sell us something rather than look at the underlying problems. For example, CAFO’s, Concentrated Animal Feedlots photos, ake most of us deeply saddened. Many sources show us the poor living conditions of our animals that are penned in huge feedlots and the resultant health problem and drugs needed for these populations. And sadly most of us do not want these drugs in our food.
He raises an interesting point: the food war is lost. He suggests all we can do now is resist. Sign petitions. Speak out. Boycott brands with deceptive advertising. Support organic farming in your local area. All actions we can somewhat easily put into our schedules. Pick one and begin.
I encourage you to get on Organic Consumers blog list. They are one of many watchdogs in the food industry that seeks empirical evidence to refute the many claims made by the food industry. Petitions are easy to sign on their site.
Want to understand the GMO issue with science based evidence proving GMO’s do cause problems? I highly recommend the following book:
GMO Myths and Truths from the Organic Consumers Association. It’s easy to download and it’s free. And though it is more technical and science based, the reader can easily read the talking point and view the conclusion.
Do you agree with Mr. Lewis that the food war is over and we lost?
How are you resisting misleading nutritional/product information?
I would like to hear what organizations you support. Our local farmers need us to speak up and use our food dollars wisely. As I mentioned in a previous post, Jeanne Nolan describes in detail the Chicago based city farming efforts that have produced huge results. Check out her book, From the Ground Up.
Also, don’t forget the master gardeners in your area. State Agricultural help desks are manned by volunteers to get answers to your questions. It is there for the beginner and seasoned gardener alike.
Let me know what you have been doing to resist.
Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener.
I picked up the latest copy of Organic Gardening magazine the other day, a special edition that gives the history of the founder, J.I. Rodale. He, in turn, was inspired by Sir Albert Howard (1873-1947) often considered the father of organic farming though he did not use that term per se. J. I. Rodale began by using the terms, concepts even ” organic farming, organic gardening, organic living.” Today we take these terms for granted. And we expect these terms to carry a responsibility, a meaning, a guarantee that our food when grown is produced in an organic way meaning it is chemical, pesticide and GMO free.
It amazes me and frustrates me that we have to fight for a way of agriculture that renews soil, water and air quality. This particular edition shows how one person who followed his passion changed something in our world in a positive way. Remember, in the 1940’s, chemicals became the darlings of post war boom. Unfortunately, we showed no foresight or understanding of the concept “what we do affects the next 7 generations.” When I wrote my paper for my Masters degree in the field of nutrition, my research led me to study after study that showed blatant destruction of vegetation, wildlife and human life when these chemicals were used on test animals and then applied in our landscapes. Today,the use of pesticides has a growing body of research to support the idea that they cause harm. Today, companies are using stronger and stronger poisons to produce our crops. Poisons that other countries have banned.
When one visits organic farms, demonstration gardens where organic soil exists it is magical. And while that may seem like whimsy, it is not. Crops are tasty, produce abundantly, plants are more resistant to disease.
Buy organic. Grow organic. Support organic growers in your area. State University Agricultural Extension Services have great resources and lists of organic farms. Check them out. From container gardens to fields we all have somewhere to plant.
Winter is a good time to catch up on reading, especially for those of us who want to get outside, get our hands in the soil and plant. Rodale’s organic farming has many great resources and short video’s on a variety of tips for gardening.
The above video begins a journey of one individual carrying facts and figures to congress. His journey continues on youtube.com. Great winter inspiration..
Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener.
Sharon McCamy is a friend of mine, a passionate organic grower and farmer’s market vendor in Virginia. She wrote this article for examiner.com. She articulates the issues I have also noticed with farmer’s markets. When I shopped at them I noticed only one or two vendors at most offered organic foods. When I questioned other vendors, I observed defensive and flippant answers about the use of pesticides, roundup ready seed. I stopped buying corn which as a New Englander is one of my favorite summertime treats. Farmers are planting roundup ready seed, then spray their fields with roundup. Do you want pesticide residues in your food? Sharons’s article is thoughtful and well researched. Enjoy. Judith
How Green is Your Farmer’s Market? by Sharon McCamy
“It’s almost time for the local farmers’ market to open and isn’t that wonderful? Well, yes. The popularity of rs’ markets has been on the increase in the last few years, and this trend isn’t showing any sign of slowing down.
Of course, we all know that farmers’ markets foods are the healthiest. Or are they?
Isn’t most food at a farmers’ market organic or non-GMO?
Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. And that should be a concern for all health-conscious consumers. Consumers who go to the local farmers’ market may assume that everything in the market is organic.
Local may mean fresh and it may mean quality, but it does not mean that food is raised without synthetic pesticides or without use of genetically modified ingredients. More often, it probably means that the food is raised with GMs and with synthetics.
A 50 pound bag of chicken feed is $16 at the feed store, whereas a 50 pound bag of non-GMO feed is $20 or more. And organic feed is often $30 plus. Poultry must have grain and cattle need supplementary hay in winter if a farmer doesn’t have adequate pasture (it takes 3 acres to support a cow and calf without additional food). Organic hay is almost impossible to find.
Many small operations cannot afford the cost or the time-investment to go organic or to go Non GMO.
So consumers who don’t want GMs or pesticides may go to the local market and see wonderfully fresh food—all the while getting to know their local farmer who will smile at them and tell them how the animal is humanely raised on fresh pasture, but who won’t say a word about the animal being fed genetically modified grain in order to produce the milk, butter or eggs.
This is a tough issue. Supporting local food has value for many consumers. But those same consumers, according to market trends, prefer food that is produced organically or without genetically modified content. And if needed resources were available organically at an equivalent cost, it’s likely most farmers would choose organic and non gm over “traditional” resources. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Farmers’ markets are everywhere, and they’re packed. In fact, they’ve seen dramatic growth in the last five years. Some are well-established, some are new efforts by entrepreneurs, and interestingly, many are located near local hospitals, initiated by those with a focus on health who want to see consumers making better food choices.
And farmers’ markets are frequently touted as the best source for healthy food, because the food is locally produced, with the thinking that consumers get the freshest food, and the healthiest food, from a farmer they know. Foodies who support the local food trend have given this trend the name “Locavore.”
A Takepart columnist wrote a article earlier this month about “local food” becoming the “new organic,” arguing that organic certification doesn’t count any more; that it’s more important to buy local. But a focus on “local” alone ignores many aspects of the food production chain, and doesn’t acknowledge the depth of the problems in our food production system—such as how incredibly hard GMs and pesticides are to avoid for the average farmer. Is that grass-fed beef given non-organic hay laced with pesticides in the winter? Is the pasture sludged every few years? (This is a common practice in many areas that results in fields and grasses laced with trace heavy metals.)
The average consumer at the farmers’ market does not know to ask these questions.
Farmers’ markets are indeed wonderful sources for local food. Unfortunately, too frequently consumers who are concerned about toxins and GMOs, who want certified organic and certified Non-GMO, are not given adequate choices at local markets.
A recent survey of farmers’ markets in the Washington DC metropolitan region showed that only one market requires certification for all its vendors. That’s Eastern Market, the oldest market in DC. Interestingly, it is considered the toughest market for any vendor to get into in the Mid-Atlantic region. At Eastern Market, all participating vendors are required to have certification to even be considered.
But for the majority of area local farmers’ markets in the Mid-Atlantic area, and indeed throughout the US, especially those markets managed by municipalities, certification is not a criterion for participation.
An interview with a recently retired government official addressed how markets are managed by local governments. Her answer? They’re usually managed by Parks and Rec, and are considered to be a public service, not a profit- making entity. When asked about goal-setting, the retired city manager said that the primary goal was “to keep everyone happy.”
In recent years, as markets have become popular, space in high-volume markets are coveted, and often market managers who work for municipalities tend to focus on local farmers who “show” well , or who are well established in the locality at the market. If one vendor provides honey or jams, another vendor with the same—even if organically certified—may not be able to “get into” the market—because competition would be bad for the local vendor. This is in one aspect not bad—it shows support for local agriculture and provides continuity. But it limits options for local consumers.
Today’s consumers are increasingly health-conscious. Food products that are produced according to organic production standards, or without gmo’s, are valued—so much so that Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is getting into “affordable organics,” according to their announcement last week.
Organics and non-GM foods have seen double digit growth in the last decade. Certified organic foodis the major growth trend in the food industry. If this were not the case, Walmart would not be putting enormous focus into providing affordable foods that have organic certification.
Market season is here, and farmers’ markets are tremendous fun. But consumers need to be aware that their fresh eggs, milk, and butter may be full of GMOs and trace pesticides—even though the foods are from the local market.
What’s a consumer to do? Do a lot of research, ask good questions, and don’t be satisfied with generic answers. Know that 98% of all farm operations in the US use GM feed. Value those farmers who do get certifications, because they are providing evidence for consumers. And send the market managers a message that certified organic and non-gm foods are a valued and desired option.
Consumer demand can make the difference. After all, the main goal of the farmer’s market is to “make everyone happy.”
I am always impressed with the opportunities for ideas to grow and prosper today. So many students, home inventors are getting a chance to see their dreams manifest. Many provide practical solutions to some of our pressing problems. Today’s post focuses on a couple of perspectives. Watch a video where two students have devised a more practical cardboard packing box. Want to have more edibles in your yard? See what treehugger.com offers. Lastly, New York state puts out a handy list of easy and practical tips. Check it out. Which ones do you put into practice? What would you like to begin?
1. Great new invention for cardboard packing box. 2. Treehugger does it again: Six edible perennials to put in our garden that will reproduce and provide food year and after year.
3. What is your state offering in the way of tips for Earth Day? Here’s what New York suggests:
NEW YORK STATE EARTH DAY TIPS Fifty Ways to Help Our Environment!
Earth Day is almost here. We are creative and inventive and sometimes it takes adversity to bring the best out of us whether beginning a social movement like earth day or devising a solution to an environmental problem.
In my household we stopped using plastic bags to line our in house container for emptied cans, plastics and paper. That reduces our use of plastic bags in one container by at least 5 per week. Bins can easily be washed out if need be and our recycle company for pick up doesn’t mind our recyclables loosely tossed in. In fact plastic bags jam up their machinery at the recycle plant.
Conserving now has some great tips for reducing plastic bags too.
“Plastic bags. People use nearly 1 trillion plastic bags each year, and unfortunately, many of those end up ingested by sea turtles that mistake plastic for jellyfish. Remember to bring a reusable bag for food (including vegetables) and other shopping and save a life!”
Let me know a favorite home tip you practice that saves resources. I would enjoy hearing from you.
TEDX Manhattan Talks stimulate, educate, and inspire. Recently TEDX Manhattan offered folks in the surrounding areas, satellite locations to view their recent taping, “Changing the Way We Eat,” one of which was Huntington, NY at the Cinema Arts Center (CAC) . The CAC set up their café for this day of speakers. We viewed a live-stream from the event.
Kenny Friedman, member coordinator for Nourishing Long Island (NLI) was present. He gave information and answered questions about the unique food-buying club he manages on Long Island, NY. I was intrigued by the concept for several reasons.
First, this club offers access to pasture raised animal meats, homemade cheeses from the milk produced by the farm’s cows, and eggs from pastured, humanely raised hens.
Second, they support sustained organic farming.
Third, there is no minimum order nor any obligation to order week to week. One can order when needed and pick up at several convenient locations. Member fees are reasonable.
I think when a human being is pushed against some wall their creative juices get flowing. I have been attempting to break down the severity of the GMO issue into smaller bites for clarity, resources and action.
The TEDX talks alone, see previous posts, have opened my eyes to hope, to the ingenuity we possess to fight against unfair and harmful farm practices and to create healthy solutions, sometimes one by one, sometimes collectively.
Today my focus is on NLI.
I asked Kenny if we could talk and I could interview him for this blog.
He is a professional musician, and like some of us, had some health issues. He treated them with OTC’s plus a couple of prescription meds. He had health in mind but realized he was not “eating good food, but eating what Americans are programmed to think is healthy.” A friend of his intervened and educated Kenny about the “Standard American Diet” and how far it strayed from the traditional diets of our ancestors, from even as recently as 100 years ago. Following his friend’s advice, Kenny eliminated wheat, vegetable oils, and refined sugars, while adding butter, bone broth and fermented foods. Not overnight but over a few months, these diet changes built health, and eliminated the need for pharmaceuticals he’d needed to live day by day. He began to take a holistic approach to his health and well-being. It worked. His energy was higher, he had a better outlook on life and lost some weight.
The friend who had initially intervened, Brett Shulman, an acupuncturist, belonged to a food-buying club, whereby members had access to farmers in PA who grew agriculturally sustainable food. Kenny joined and eventually, as things evolved and changed, he was asked to manage the club and the farmer connections.
I have seen brochures and photos of the Amish farms where the cattle are pastured, pigs root in corn fields, baby chicks are in safe open aired pens on grass. The farmers raise their own feed from non GMO seed. This allows them to manage the quality and decreases the “carbon footprint” in all aspects of farm production.
Kenny began managing the club in July 2013 and expected 100+ members to sign up. By year’s end, 300+ families had signed on.
I asked Kenny about produce. He feels NLI is an easy partner with CSA’s or local farmers markets but produce is more of a “hands-on” purchase. “What one person looks for might be much different from what another person looks for, which opens the door for customer-service issues. There is plenty of good produce being grown right here on LI. We focus on keeping our sources as local as possible.”
NLI, a buyer’s club, right here on Long Island, offers GMO free, organic, sustainable and regionally local food.
For more information go to www.nourishingli.com and click the link that says: “I am not an NLI Member and I would like to become one.” Fill out the simple questionnaire and you’ll receive an email that details how the group works, as well as a list of common items available and the reasonable club fees. Once members sign up, they are able to place an order. The member selects a pickup location (from a list of 13 all over Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, Staten Island) and picks up the food they purchased the following Saturday. It’s that easy.
Earth Day is coming up. Earth Day is a concentrated effort to focus our attention on complex environmental issues that affect us every day.
In my “local” area, NLI represents a concept in action, a food buying club that partners urbanites with regionally grown food and one that decreases our carbon footprint.
What works in your area? I ‘d like to hear from you.
Myra Goodman and her husband founded Earthbound Farm organic, a familiar site in our supermarket’s produce case. She spoke recently at the TEDX talks Manhattan on the topic : Changing The Way We Eat.
I didn’t realize how small the organic industry is in the US. Only 4.2 % of sales in food dollars are organic. Less than 1% of our farmland is organic. 99% of our food production farms use conventional pesticides to manage problems. Pesticide use creates problems for humans and other species. What is the definition of organic?
Earthbound Farm organic states: “Federally regulated since 2002, the term organic means food grown using methods that foster the health and harmony of the ecosystem, including the people and animals living in it.”
“Organic food is produced with:
No synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fumigants
No fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge
No genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
No hormones, antibiotics, artificial ingredients or trans fats
This method of farming is catching on… from those of us who plant an earth box planter for growing our own organic greens to the younger generations choosing farming as a lifestyle, career choice and everything in between.
Did you know that Earthbound Farms also makes a commitment to using recycled packaging? The process described below is less expensive than making plastics from scratch.
Facts, Farms, Food. We vote with our fork. Let’s vote organic.