Letter to the Editor: The Benefits of Local Foods
We don’t make the connection between what we put on our plates and our mental, spiritual, physical, well-being. We look at food as calories instead of what it really is- nature’s medicine. The good news is that we CAN eat in ways to create abundance, health, happiness, and energy all while supporting our local small farm businesses and neighbors!
Studies show that HOW we are eating food can be more important than WHAT we are eating. Think of the difference between a locally grown corn on the cob, corn chips and high fructose corn syrup; same source, three very different foods because of the level of processing. Agriculture is a kind of process, so is fermenting, cooking, storing, dicing, preserving. Almost all foods are processed and usually better for it- but increasingly, they are not.
There is a difference between foods people make with their hands and foods that are made by machines.
Dr. Mark Hyman says that “Most Americans don’t eat food anymore. They eat factory made, industrially produced food-like substances, or Frankenfoods, that contain trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial sweeteners and colors, additives, preservatives, pesticides, antibiotics…”
Even if we are eating real food, say a watermelon, how does it get from its source to your table? Did you know, in the winter, 70% of produce on supermarket shelves comes from Mexico? A supermarket watermelon from Mexico started on a massive commercial farm where they grow thousands of watermelons… just watermelons. The commercial watermelon farms are riddled with pesticides, and according to a study by the USDA, almost 60% of conventionally grown produce is still contaminated with pesticides even after washing.
According to www.whatsonmyfood.org, a searchable database designed to make the public problem of pesticide exposure visible and more understandable, many of those pesticides are known or probable carcinogens, hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental or reproductive toxins, or honeybee toxins. The whole crop of watermelons were harvested in one day by migrant workers and packed into semi-trailers sending them north to Negales-Mariposa Port of Entry, where the port’s annual volume is more than one million pounds- of just watermelon! There, they are stored in one of the 100+ cold warehouses until they are shipped to your local supermarket. This system is vast and relies on pesticides, refrigeration, and semis.
Compare that to a watermelon from Clarion River Organics; a 16 family, owned and operated farm cooperative near Clarion, Pa. Most of the families are Amish and all of them practice horse farming. They are certified organic and maintain healthy soils as their main means of pest and disease control. The organic watermelons ripen in August and September, along with many other in-season crops. Usually, members of the family harvest the watermelon and they use ice houses for much of their cold storage.
The same food… two totally different processes.
We are lucky to live in an area where we have wonderful local family farms! Locally grown, organic foods carry a higher vibrational and nutritional energy for our consumption for many reasons. They have not had to be stored or travel over long distances to reach the market. They hold more life force and produce less allergies. They were not created in a laboratory or factory. They do not contain harmful pesticides.
The two biggest perceived obstacles to eating well and local are not having enough time or money – and in most cases, neither are true. We are all guilty spending time doing things that are unproductive, like scrolling through social media, but somehow we can’t find the time to shop and cook real, wholesome food for our families. Local produce from fine farms in your area such as Clarion River Organics, Who Cooks For You Farm, Zacherl’s Farm and Market, Saylor’s Farm, and Musser’s Fruit Farm can be easily found in stores such as Whole Foods, cooperatives, farm markets, farm stands, and CSA’s, as well as a few local restaurants such as Zack’s in New Bethlehem and Clarion River Brewing Company in Clarion.
Purchase local produce when in season and freeze, can, or ferment to use through the winter. Grain and grass fed local beef from Clarion Farms and natural pasture raised pigs, turkeys, and chickens from Gruber Farms can be found at their family farms in Clarion and Shippenville respectively, in the Pittsburgh Strip District on Saturdays, at various drop off points like YMCA and Core Goods in Oil City, and Zack’s Farm to Table Restaurant in New Bethlehem.
You can even order home delivery of meats from Clarion River Organics. Instead of using harmful sugar (or even worse, fake sugar) use local honey from Dee’s Bees in Knox or local maple syrup from Dave’s Maple Farm. Grow your own little windowsill garden of heirloom and organic microgreens from Sun Greens, near Brookville which have up to 40 times more vital nutrients than mature plants.
The money that you spend locally matters. I’m not saying that we should all grow our own food or butcher our own meat, but if you were to try it yourself and educate yourself on commercial production of your food, you would realize that it is SO worth the little extra you pay for your peace of mind to pay someone in your community that is doing it well. By shifting some of your spending for food to local farms, you can engage with your neighbors and allow small business owners to profit, which will help the local economy to prosper. This is especially important in a time where our local area has lost much of its economic foundation. Together, we can create a paradigm shift around our food choices.
Let’s take back our power and our health from the big, commercial food industries that wan to keep us confused. Even with all the debate around what we should eat (keto, vegan, Atkins, etc), if we use our common sense, we will agree that our families should be eating real, whole, fresh, unprocessed, chemical-free, local food. Instead of just talking about washing our hands, we should be talking about the bigger picture. Boost your immune systems and your local economy – buy local!
Note from the author, Gina Clark: I wrote this article before the Covid-19 madness started. I predict that when we come out the other side of this, and we will, we will have some major shifts. Shifts in society and the way we interact with each other and also shifts in the economy and lifestyle. Regarding the economy, I’m not just talking money. I’m talking about PEOPLE and the way we share vital resources: food, water, energy, medicine. I think we’ll have more LOCALIZED living. And hopefully, people’s lifestyles will now reflect those changes. We’ll all start to reconnect to the earth and our communities. In the words of an incredible teacher and forager, Adam Haritan, that I’ve been binge watching lately (check out his YouTube channel “Learn Your Land”). “We have to build ourselves out of something and rather than building ourselves out of inferior food, inferior drinks and inferior experiences…we’ll start to build ourselves out of the best!”
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