Friday, May 18, 2007

Organically Correct

I love vegetables. The older I get, the more I like them and crave them almost as much as chocolate chip cookies. I love the farmers market and enjoy getting fresh fruits and vegetables, but it can often be inconvenient to get to and not much cheaper than shopping at the store. So I have resorted to often picking things up at Whole Foods or other organic markets. A couple of months ago, I was riding my bike in the house and reading the New Yorker when I came across an article about organic vegetables and local farming. This article talked about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which is a program that allows normal Joes like myself to purchase a share in a local farm. So for a certain fee, I could enjoy farm fresh vegetables and fruits picked in the morning and delivered to me in the afternoon once a week for 6 months. I was intrigued by this prospect and wondered how I could get into such a program.

I forgot about it amidst all the moving and wedding planning and then came across a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle written by Barbara Kingsolver. It's a non-fiction book about her experience with her family moving to their farm in Virginia and living for a year on what they could grow themselves or purchase locally amongst other farmers. I have never quite understood the whole organic movement until now. I used to say things like, "People have been eating the same foods for hundreds of years, and it hasn't killed anyone." Or maybe, "Chickens are chickens. They lay eggs and they are all the same." I am admitting ignorance. The truth is, people haven't been eating the same foods for hundreds of years and not all chickens are the same. I used to think that people who bought organic food were part of some secret society of people who just wanted superior food... as if the conventional stuff wasn't good enough for them. It's only recently that I am becoming aware that buying organic or from local farmers is as much a political statement as it is a nutritional statement.

It isn't breaking news that America's farms are in trouble. We have been hearing about the demise of small farms for years as big business farms have taken over. It doesn't make sense that we export almost the same amount of potatoes that we import. Why are we not just keeping them here? We have been hearing about the pesticides and the growth hormones and any number of unappealing things that have integrated into the farm system, and we all reply with disgust and continue to buy the same things we always did. I am not going to turn into one of those fanatics that only eat what they have seen come out of the ground, but I am more aware of where my food is coming from.

I am an advocate of small farms and getting foods locally. I would prefer to keep things in our country rather than dolling everything out to other countries. We should be paying for our own work. Sure, we might get it cheaper from somewhere else, but at what cost? What are we losing to save a few cents? We have all become accustomed to eating all foods whenever we want because we can have them shipped her from wherever they are being grown, but then they spend their good days travelling and losing their savor. We should try to train ourselves to eat foods when they are in season because they will taste better and we will enjoy them more. That might be unrealistic. I still go to the grocery store. I still have to buy things that might have travelled farther than upstate NY using up precious fossil fuels, but if I have an option to buy organic tomatoes from California for 40 cents cheaper than the organic tomatoes from NY... I am going to take the ones from NY.

So I am in a farm phase. Part of me would like to start growing tomatoes and raising chickens but it's kind of hard to do that here in the city. There would be no where for my cow to graze and I don't have any able bodied children to do the milking every morning. So I have settled for the Chubby Bunny CSA. Bring on the seasonal vegetables, fruit and raw milk. Perhaps this is my preparation for the future when we make our millions, move away and buy a farm in England, Italy or some other really fantastic place where I can make my own cheese and grow 14 varieties of tomatoes. I am done wasting fossil fuels on food that has lost its flavor and nutritional value. Give me the carrots that are still covered in dirt and misshapen squash, at least I know where it came from and how it was grown. My body will thank me and so will my conscience.

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