Sunday, July 29, 2012
With food, you get what you pay for. Over the past 100 years, we Americans have spent less and less on our food--have become far more detached from its production. The poorer quality of industrialized, factory-produced food is manifesting in expanding obesity rates and exploding diet-related illnesses. At the turn of the 20th century, Americans spent about half of their net income on food; today, that number hovers around 10 percent. In fact, we Americans spend a smaller percentage of our income on our food than any other country.
The low value we place on our food and its sources leads us as a nation to subsidize factory farms and the cheap, low-quality foods they produce. By re-prioritizing our family's food, recognizing its central place in the health and well-being of our children and our planet, we can allocate our scarce resources more effectively. We can recognize that while it may be more inconvenient and more expensive to buy our foods directly from local, sustainable farms, the quality of the small, local farm foods is vastly superior by all measures. And if we can't afford to buy local foods, then we can start producing our own meat and produce, as Sam over at My Barefoot Farm recently wrote about in her post, "An Omnivore's Decision."
My small city condo makes it difficult to produce my own food, so instead I rely on dedicating a large portion of our family's net income to local, farm-fresh foods. Through this partnership with local farms and our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) relationships, my children have a far greater appreciation for the food they eat and the farms that produce it, and they see sustainable agriculture and locavorism as natural and normal.
My goal, which is easily accomplished at this time of year with bountiful summer harvests and daily city Farmers' Markets, is to rarely visit the store for food products. I pick up the occasional gallon of vinegar, package of salt, or box of baking soda at the local market, but most of our summertime food never sees the inside of a store.
It seems to me that's the way it should be. We should be more connected to the food we eat, to the growers who produce it, to the soil that nurtures it. We should be willing to pay more for that farm-fresh quality and the health benefits it offers, for the farmers who work diligently to produce our food using sustainable growing practices, and we should be ready to make the necessary sacrifices for that to happen. Yes, it's more expensive, often more inconvenient, and sometimes more labor-intensive to eat fresh, local, free-range, pesticide-free foods that come from farms not factories. But shouldn't it be?