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Allow Me to Introduce Your Food

Brain Food: Food Miles January 21, 2010

Filed under: Food Definitions — Natalie Aldern @ 10:09 am
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Food Miles: The term food miles refers to the distance that food travels before it gets to your table. It is used in calculating the carbon footprint of not only what we eat, but also where it originates. For instance, an apple grown in Yakima, Washington, and sold in New York City travels roughly 2,700 food miles.

Why it matters:A lot of fuel goes into the food we eat. It takes energy to grow the crops, but it also takes a lot of oil to transport them from the field to your table. Is it really better for the to buy organic produce that was grown 3000 miles away? The environmental cost of the distance food travels is something to consider when making your purchasing decisions.

What to look for:Most stores will indicate where the produce was grown. Food miles are not the be all and end all of making informed choices, in fact some people believe that they can be rather misleading. That being said, look for food that is grown as close to your home as possible, by growers who practice sustainable farming. Proximity of growth is important, but many other factors influence how much fuel is used to produce your food.


Brain Food: CSA January 14, 2010

Filed under: Food Definitions — Natalie Aldern @ 9:15 am
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To know your food, sometimes you have to speak the language.

CSA: An abbreviation standing for “Community-supported agriculture.” A relatively new socio-economic model of food production, sales, and distribution aimed at both increasing the quality of food and the quality of care given the land, plants and animals – while substantially reducing potential food losses and financial risks for the producers. It is also a method for small-scale commercial farmers and gardeners to have a successful, small-scale closed market. CSA’s focus is usually on a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables, sometimes also flowers, fruits, herbs and even milk or meat products in some cases. A variety of production and economic sub-systems are in use worldwide.

Why it matters: By subscribing to a CSA, you guarantee local farmers a market for their produce.  You promise to buy it as long as they supply it. It’s an excellent way to eat locally AND seasonally, both of which will dramatically decrease the miles (and gas required) to get food to your table.  Your box will only contain produce that is currently in season in your region.  You may not know how to cook a parsnip (yet), but when it shows up in your weekly box, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly.

What to look for: If you want to learn more about CSAs in your area, head over to and type in your zip code for programs that serve your community.  Make sure you pick a program that will work for you.  CSAs usually have a weekly schedule of pickups or drop offs and will allow you pick the size of your produce box.  If you’re concerned about growing techniques, just ask- the growers will be happy to answer!


Is Localization of Agriculture Unrealistic? January 13, 2010

Filed under: Local Food,sustainable food — Natalie Aldern @ 7:36 am
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David Barsamian of Z Magazine recently interviewed Helena Norberg-Hodge, the founder of the International Society for Ecology and Culture. When questioned about “alternative agriculture” she had this to say:

“I think there is a systemic alternative that is being discovered and actually developed at the grassroots. But this alternative, which is a systemic shift toward localizing economic activity instead of globalizing it, has received almost no air time. It’s a sort of invisible growth, but it’s happening nevertheless. Fundamentally, what that shift is about is recognizing that this global economic system has its roots from 500 years ago, when elites in the UK and Europe started sending people across the world to gather wealth for themselves.

Structurally, they were destroying more self-reliant, localized economies where people were meeting their own needs and producing a range of things for home and regional needs. Trade was in the hands of smaller communities and groups exchanging with each other. When they were forced into the mines or onto giant cotton, sugar, coffee, and tea plantations, there was a shift towards not only an economy that was very exploitative and unjust, but also ecologically unstable because monocultural production inherently works against the diversity of the natural world. Diversified production in localized economic systems works with nature.”

We are continuously reminded by Big Agriculture that more food = better. Yet, the industrialized approach to agriculture that has been adopted in the US is not only affecting the nutritional value of the food produced here, it’s also impacting once self-reliant economies around the world. The excess of food is actually undermining global communities that used to meet their own needs. As Norberg-Hodge goes on to argue, local agriculture is really the only feasible approach to feeding the world.

You can read the full interview here.