Choose Local Farmers Meat and Produce for a Sustainable Diet

Joan Gussow, Ph.D. encourages MOTHER readers to know where their food is coming from by buying local farmers meat and produce.

| February/March 2002

Choose a sustainable diet by buying local farmers meat and produce.

A young neighbor who watered and harvested my garden for a few days last summer left a message on my answering machine while I was away. She had read my new book, This Organic Life, which tells the story of my quarter-century effort to eat by buying local farmers meat and produce in downstate New York.

"I was just thinking," she said. "This may be the only time in history when humans have had complete strangers — strangers who are badly treated or ignored — growing and preparing all our food."

One could nitpick her facts, but she has the right idea. Not even a century ago, most of us had a pretty good idea where our food came from. Now — if the eaters I speak to are typical — most people can't identify the origin of anything they ate yesterday.

And, as my young friend's comment suggests, if we knew where our food was coming from, if we knew who and what was involved in getting it to our tables, we would doubtless be appalled at the evils wrought on our behalf — not only to strangers, but to the planet and its other living beings. We might even be scared. Here are a few reasons why we should be:

• The contamination of crops — even organic crops — with genetically modified organisms, whose long term effect on our ecosystem is unknown and whose effects on human health are untested;
• The horrors and cruelties of the hog factories with their lagoons of waste;
• Meat and poultry plants with their speeded-up disassembly lines threatening not only the lives and limbs of the people who work them, but the health of those who eat the flesh they produce;
• Our growing dependence on perishable foods shipped to us from poor countries everywhere;
• And most critically, the hemorrhaging of farmers and farmland from our national landscape. (The latest figures show that for every farmer under 35 there are five farmers over 65.) All these portend a future that seems anything but secure where our food is concerned.

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