Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why be choosey when shopping??

I remember when I lived in Santiago Chile and going shopping at we refer to as the "Farmer's Market". There were at least bi-weekly markets in all neighbor hoods. There were very few grocery stores, people bought what they ate fresh, had very little garbage, supported local economy, and didn't need to have a giant refrigerator and massive storage for food.

We can only afford to do this now because of the artificially low energy prices that we currently enjoy, and by externalizing the environmental costs of such a wasteful food system. We do this also to the detriment of small farmers by subsidizing large scale, agribusiness-oriented agriculture with government handouts and artificially cheap energy.

I reflect on those experiences when I shop here in Missoula or go to the store. At Costco or other stores like Walmart you can see people leave with a massive bounty of food stuff and other goods. My attitude has shifted from being a box store addict to, well lets see...ill describe it!! (its hard)

Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies facilitate a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news.

We joined a co-op, Trying to ween my better half off Walmart, we buy much less processed and packaged food. We dint buy too much from the co-op yet and I cant bring myself to brave the Local farmer's market scene...and it is a scene. over all it takes discipline and quite a bit more effort to eat healthy and shop responsibly.

Why do it? It is not just about eating organic, as a matter of fact I don't really focus on organic as much as locally grown. We have some excellent local farmers who don't jump through the USDA hoop of red tape, bureaucracy and fees and actually have higher standards. So I can buy stuff where I know the grower, know where it was grown. Also it wasn't shipped 1500 miles and harvested prematurely to adjust for shelf life at the super market.

Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

What is becoming an even more significant reason is that the money we spend supports a local economy, a local family, a local school. It doesnt go to a corporate farmer or some other agri-giant that has found a way to manipulate the system and is only socially responsible and organic on the nifty packaging.

These large-scale, agribusiness-oriented food systems are bound to fail on the long term, sunk by their own unsustainability. But why wait until we're forced by circumstance to abandon our destructive patterns of consumption? We can start now by buying locally grown food whenever possible. By doing so you'll be helping preserve the environment, and you'll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer.

Family farms are an important part of the American tradition of self-sufficiency, forming the bedrock for communities across the U.S.

Since 1935, the U.S. has lost 4.7 million farms. Fewer than one million Americans now claim farming as a primary occupation.

Go to local harvest for more great info

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