The Blog

From Farm to Plate

By Kim Banting,

From Farm to Plate

Our food supply is threatened.  What does that mean?  How is it threatened? More importantly, why, and is it too late to correct this problem?The massive use of GMO crops, spraying of pesticides and herbicides and using chemical fertilizers has changed the way the world farms. Farming is big business.  People need to eat and most of us are now far too distracted with keeping up with society’s demands on us that we don’t take the time to consider where the food we are eating came from or how it got to our plate.  Some make what they believe to be conscious choices, such as buying organics, but the food industry is a complicated system and we can no longer trust that we are always being offered safe, healthy food. 

 The agricultural system changed in the 1940′s when men were away to fight in the war.  At this time what is known as factory farming began to take shape.  Tractors and other machinery were brought in to replace the work horse and mule and a monoculture was introduced to the family farm.  Monoculture is the growing of vast fields of the same crop or livestock, year after year without allowing the land to rest and regenerate.  Farmers were supposed to see greater yields with this style of farming, yet there is no evidence of this being the case.  Before this, farmers would create a polyculture by rotating their fields for animal grazing and a variety of crop growth.  This encourages a natural balance and biodiversity that is essential if a farmer wants to maintain the integrity of his or her land and the health of the food grown there. http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=sYWYU5V8JOo   This type of farming strives to mimic nature in all aspects and produces nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables and healthy, happy animals that have no need for medication.  It also discourages pests, eliminating the need for pesticides.  Actually, the current popular method of planting large fields of the same crop has increased the need for pesticides instead of reducing it as was promised by the companies that introduced the idea.

The face of organic farming has also changed in recent years.  Approximately 15 years ago, larger corporations saw the revenue to be made in organics and wanted a piece of the pie.  This is why we can purchase cookies, sugary cereals and other highly processed foods with an organic label.  We can no longer assume that organic foods have the benefits we have come to expect.  So now what do we buy if we want quality food with a conscience?  The new keywords to watch for are “local”, “sustainable” and “transparent”. 

  •  Buying local (within 100 miles of your home) improves your economy and you are more likely to be purchasing from a small, family farmer. 
  • Sustainable means that the methods used promote rich, fertile soil, less disease and fewer pests without using chemical fertilizers or pesticides.  The land’s resources will not be damaged or depleted and the animals are fed a species-appropriate diet.
  • Transparent means that you will not be turned away if you want to see the farm yourself.  The farmer will be proud to share his practices with the consumer. 

This is not the case with corporate farming, not even organic.  Organic foods are shipped to us from all over the world, there is much secrecy surrounding the production of commercial organics and these companies are still using a monoculture system which has been proven to be unproductive.  In fact, small farms that had previously been certified organic have begun decertifying their farms which has led to these new labels to identify quality food.

When we buy organics, we are told what we aren’t getting in our food: pesticides, synthetic chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, GMO, etc. This is good, but what if conventionally-grown foods also had to be labelled with what they do contain?  http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/ Would people continue to purchase it?  Would people still buy bacon if they knew where it came from or understood what that animal’s life experience was before it was slaughtered?  We have the right to know where our food comes from and what happens to it from the farm to our plates.  We, as consumers, also have a responsibility to seek out the healthiest, safest, most humane and eco-friendly foods we can find. 

What happens on your plate represents your most important engagement with the natural world and your biggest impact on the Earth.” ~Michael Pollan, “The Omnivores Dilemma”

Health and happiness,

Kimberly Banting, RNCP, HHP

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