You walk through the aisles of your local supermarket. Apples in June. Watermelons in February. Oranges in December. Weird star fruit in….well I don’t actually know if star fruit have a picking season. So how do we have these fruits and vegetables when it is not time for them to be picked.
Most of our food doesn’t come from the good ol’ USA. As I previously mentioned, we mainly grow corn. Most of that is used for biofuels and livestock feed. So where do we get all this stuff? Well, where is it warm and rainy all year-round (and cheap to grow)? Thing South. We get a vast majority of our produce (when not in season) comes from Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, and Brazil. If you have time, I suggest you actually go to your local supermarket and ask the manager from where the produce is coming. 99 times out of 100, you will get a blank stare.
As a nation, we have become so disconnected from the very sustenance we need for survival. Most urbanites think farmer as being synonymous with country bumpkin, redneck, hillbilly, or quaint. There is a social stigma to be a farmer. But should those farmers disappear, well, the high and mighty urbanites are in for a world of hurt. In fact, this may not be as strange as one would think. Since 1979, 300,000 small farms have disappeared in the United States, and since 1946 the number of people who make their living by farming has been cut in half. Increasingly, large companies like Monsanto and Carghill take over and force farmers out of their land.
Back to the food. So these crops are being grown in countries far away from all of us. The workers who are spraying the pesticides we previously mentioned, working long hours in the hot sun are probably not being paid very well. But that is not a problem: we get our watermelons cheap! The crops are finally picked. Now what? The crops are put in an air-conditioned airplane and flown to packaging and distribution centers throughout the United States. Then, they are shipped in air-conditioned trucks all over the country on our wonderful highway system. This is hugely energy intensive. It is estimated that the average American family’s meal has traveled almost 10,000 miles before it reaches the plate (in December, to be fair). Scientists have clocked energy usage as being 10 calories of fossil fuels for 1 calorie of food. Talk about inefficient.
The Cosmic Perspective
Perhaps for the purposes of this series the Cosmic Perspective should be retitled to What You Can Do. Oh well, too late.
If ever there was a simple way to make a difference it is to: buy local and in season! Simple!
Don’t buy those apples in June or watermelons in February. Eat what is available in your zone when you plan to eat it. That might mean doing without some things. Unfortunately, most Americans are still in the mentality that they want it all and they want it now. So visit your local farmer’s markets. Not only will you help support the local economy (that is all the rage), but you will be eating better: better for you and for the environment. Build a relationship with those great folks who grow your food. Check out this link to find more links regarding local eating:
I don’t mean that you have to drop oranges altogether. I have eaten a star fruit. Guilty as charged. But all good things in moderation. Once in a while is fine, every day is where the problem arises.
In her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver notes,
“The main barrier standing between ourselves and a local-food culture is not price, but attitude. The most difficult requirements are patience and a pinch of restraint – virtues that are hardly the property of the wealthy. . . We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket, ignoring how our sustenance is cheapened by wholesale desires. Waiting for the quality experience seems to be the constitutional article that has slipped from the American food custom…We have the illusion of consumer freedom, but we’ve sacrificed our community life for the pleasure of purchasing lots of cheap stuff. Making and moving all that stuff can be so destructive: child labor in foreign lands, acid rain in the Northeast, depleted farmland, communities where the big economic engine is crystal meth. We often have the form of liberty but not the substance.”