English 101, Sec. 3252
May 19, 2017
Thought For Food
It’s no secret that the food we buy in our average local grocery store is chocked full of items that are not necessarily good for us. We fill our carts full of processed foods, lacking in nutritional value because it’s cheap. This is not a thought that a person may dwell on when placing items in their shopping cart because, Hey! We have to eat! Retail standards negatively impact the way our food is grown and processed. The aesthetic requirements against our produce leads to perfectly good fruits and vegetables being thrown away because they do not meet quality standards imposed by retailers. Retailers overstock their shelves to entice consumers with a perspective of abundance; this however leads to $15 billion dollars’ worth of unsold fruits and vegetables annually being tossed in the trash. A former President of Trader Joe’s confessed, “The reality as a regional grocery manager is, if you see a store that has really low waste in its perishables, you are worried. If a store has low waste numbers it can be a sign that they aren’t fully in stock and that the customer experience is suffering.” To meet retail demands, big agricultural corporations use unhealthy methods to ensure high yield of crops such as using pesticides and growth hormones. Our ability to rely on big agriculture to provide us with safe, healthy foods is practically nonexistent, and as a result, new alternatives such as farm to table programs are being implemented. The growing health concerns in America due to the quality of our food and how it is processed has ignited a food revolution ranging from upstart local farming all the way down to apartment scale urban gardening.
In response to the consumer’s demands for healthier produce, chain grocery stores all over the country have introduced organic and health food sections but the options are vastly limited. Organic produce comes from farms that avoid using pesticides and growth hormones to speed up the production process and tend to produce on a much smaller scale than big agricultural corporations. Currently organic farming only makes up about 1% of the total agriculture production here in the U.S. Organic foods come at a higher price because of the natural methods used to grow crops. Prices of organic produce are negatively impacted by the retailer’s aesthetic standards. Even health food stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts require these standards to be met making the cost of buying organic costlier than buying straight from the source. The industrialized methods of big agriculture have driven the prices of produce down to where people are spending a lower percentage of their total income on food than in previous decades. This relatively new standard makes it harder for consumers to justify the higher prices of the organic produce offered in grocery and health food stores.
People don’t believe that they can afford buying organic, but when you buy direct from local farms it cuts out the middle man and keeps your cost down and more money for the farmers to grow their businesses. Organic farmers who sell their produce direct to consumers earn on average 30% more than conventional farmers. Buying organic offers a veritable cornucopia of produce options as well as providing consumers with chemical free fresh produce. Genetically modified produce limits the variety of fruits and vegetables available to us. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, there are only 12 plant species that make up 75% of the food marketed to us. Big agriculture utilizes a uniform method of growing to maximize the ability of the crops to withstand pesticide interactions and to maximize growth. Genetically diverse organic crops allow for better survival in the event of drastic climate changes and the likelihood of crop failure is far less. Buying local organic produce offers more variety in our diets as well as new opportunities to experiment with the robust flavors fresh produce has to offer. Shopping at your local farmers market you can find a wide variety of produce at comparable market prices.
Small scale local farming is making a big comeback to meet the demands of the consumers cry for safer, healthier foods. Startups such as Bowery Farming in New York, has invented a modern take on farm to table produce. Their produce is grown indoors using a high tech organic method of hydroponics. Using data and monitoring technology, they control the amount of water used and the amount of light needed to give their crops exactly what they need, nutrients, water and light. They have situated themselves just 15 miles outside of New York City and supply their produce to local stores. They currently are producing 80 different varieties of leafy vegetables such as arugula, kale and lettuce. Because they are able to automate their growing process they have the ability to sell their organic produce at $3.99 for a 5-ounce package which is comparable to the non-organic salad mixes you would find in your local grocery store.
Ouroboros Farms in Half Moon Bay, CA is one of the largest Aquaponics farms in the U.S. Aquaponic farming combines aquaculture, which is a system of growing fish and hydroponics which is a system of growing plants without soil. This allows for an efficient growing and fertilization cycle. They raise fish in large tanks which in return release nutrient rich waste into the water which is then filtered along through the plant system. The plants take what they need and clean water is then filtered back into the fish tanks. Aquaponic facilities allow for better environmental control as well as being a chemical free alternative to growing produce. This system uses up to 95% less water than traditional farming .Plants are able to grow 30-50% faster since the nutrients are filtered straight to them where as in traditional farming plants spend more energy searching for nutrients in the soil. Individuals can even set up their own aqauponics system from table top to backyard size.
More people are also learning to grow their own food at home and in their communities. Programs are being created to teach people how to grow their own food and to rethink their lawns. Fleet Farming is an organization that allows homeowners to donate their lawns for growing vegetables which would then be sold. The homeowner gets to partake in the upkeep and growing process of the garden as well as being able to keep part of the harvest for themselves. Enrich L.A. is a non-profit organization that builds gardens in schools and turns empty lots into lush gardens. You can find many local gardening organizations that teach you how to turn your space into a viable garden so you can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables year round.
Vertical farming allows those with minimal space to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables in a single container system. Creating your own vertical garden is as easy as finding recyclable products such as plastic bottles, cans, wooden pallets and setting up your garden along a fence or wall. There are many different space saving ideas and anyone can find a system that will fit into their lifestyle and their home. The idea of vertical farming is not only appealing to those with limited space; startup farming companies are now also using the idea of growing vertically to maximize the amount of yield per square foot.
Eating locally grown produce, whether from farms or your own backyard takes away from the negative impacts created by big agriculture on your health and the environment. If the consumers demand for healthier foods keeps growing at this pace, big agricultural corporations will have no choice but to reconsider how and where they grow our food. We have the power to change how our food is processed by becoming more engaged in the production process. When we teach ourselves and our children to grow food we learn to appreciate the importance of nutrition, health and the environment. The only way big agriculture is going to realize that they need to change is if we start taking charge of our own livelihood and grow our own slightly imperfect but edible food.
Dana Gunders, August 2012 – Natural Resources Defense Coucil “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of It’s Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill”
Humaira Irshad, July 2010 Government of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development –
“Local Food – A Rural Opportunity”