Eat LocalJune 30, 2016
Our modern industrial food chain uses large quantities of petroleum based fertilizers, pesticides, and fuel leading to one simple message: eat well grown and locally sourced foods when possible.
Today's large, complex, industrial food chain often begins with seeds being planted in the earth and ends with meals prepared from grocery store items on our plates. Wheat, corn and rice are incredibly efficient at converting energy from the sun into carbohydrates and have replaced many of the leafy greens we once grew and ate. Between the assistance of government subsidies to industry and the ease that their seeds can be stored, shipped, and traded as commodities, these high carbohydrate monocultures have become American staples. Not only have these crops become the mainstay of our diets, but the diets of our cows, chicken, and even fish that produce our meat, eggs, and dairy products. Worse, the milling, grinding, and refining of these seeds, which often removes their nutritional value, has led to a perverse new processed, adulterated, and sugar added food norm. This western diet, epitomized by corn syrups' domination over sugarcane and honey, nature's natural sweetener, is a major factor in America's high rates of obesity, heart disease, and cancer which contribute to our increasing healthcare costs.
The fertility of our once self-sufficient farms was based off the sun and the natural cycle of diverse crop rotation, livestock grazing, and use of animal manure as a nutrient rich fertilizer. The wide scale industrialization of these farms began when the defense industrial complex's factories went from producing munitions to synthetic oil based fertilizers after the Second World War. Today's modern farm apparatus consumes large quantities of oil with an estimated 50 gallons required to produce one acre of monoculture farmland and even more oil required for our cattle feedlots, chicken factories, and dairy farms. Furthermore, petroleum based pesticides are repeatedly applied to the soil, plant shoots, and foliage itself for each different targeted organism. Unlike the targeted plants, larva, and bugs that grow resistant to these pesticides, these petroleum based chemicals leach into our ground drinking water and remain effective against the organisms in our rivers, estuaries, and oceans creating dead zones. In addition, between harvesting and arriving on our grocery store shelves, oil products are used throughout the modern food chain in the drying, storing, processing, packaging, and transportation of these food items.
Well grown and locally sourced food not only connects us to the land with their non-processed, unadulterated, whole foods, but the inherent fewer links in their food chain leads to less oil products being consumed. As a natural alternative to our industrial monocultures' heavy dependence on petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides, small farms rotate a diverse number of crops leading to healthier soils, deeper roots, and a far greater variation of fruits and vegetables for us to choose from. The ripeness and freshness of locally sourced food does not only mean it will often taste better, it means the food required far less oil for transport and no oil for storage, processing, or the single-use sealed plastic bags that keep the produce fresher longer during shipping. Furthermore, local farmers often pasteurize their livestock which leads to higher quality, healthier, and happier meat, eggs, and dairy products than their seed fed counterparts produce on industrial farms. Finally, if the worst predictions of global warming come to fruition, local farmers and fisherman will possess the skills our society will need most.
I do my best to purchase my produce from the farmers' market, meat from Maine Meat, and fish from New Hampshire Community Seafood and would like to encourage others that can to do the same. Not only are these well grown and locally sourced foods more nutritional for us and healthier for the earth, the more Americans that collectively chose this lifestyle, the less oil dependent we would become as a nation. If we as Americans consume less oil, oil abundant regions would have fewer wars for our service members to deploy to combat in and the earth's outlook from climate change would be less grim.