Good food is for all

Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2014 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media


Fresh air, delicious eats and a tractor — if you haven’t already, Meet your Farmer! Twice a month for over two years, I have carved out a food formula to inspire you to eat local and connect with seed, soil and the people that work hard to feed you well from the fields by sharing 50-plus food journeys from family farms. I don’t get paid to do this; I do it because the farmer deserves publicity, a lobbyist and a viable livelihood.


Having worked 20-plus years in the food business sourcing unprocessed fresh food from the farm — never from a can — to manufacture products that are good for you and sold on supermarket shelves, I have been committed to my agricultural community, the locavore lifestyle, honest food and working with real chefs who invite us into their restaurants, not weekly food shows.


Beyond organic, chefs are people who maintain relationships with their farmers as “the best kept secret” of their celebrated restaurants. Their farm-to-table practice is an idea that we should all commit to in the same vein — farm to our own tables every time we eat.


This column isn’t about diets, supplements or health plans: It’s about visiting a farm for a walk in the fresh air with your family, friends and your kids and opening the proverbial barn door so that you can take a peak at the amazing smorgasborg of options behind it packed with responsible food, honest choices and nutrition that makes you look and feel great. Pick and choose what works for you and leave the rest for someone else to try, but pass it on. It’s a rewarding lifestyle and pure goodness.


I eat everything — meat and grain, fruit, vegetables, fish and dairy. I eat in season and locally harvested food that comes within miles of where it is raised, harvested or grown sustainably. I don’t get stuck on claims or labels. I gorge myself on anything fresh and tasty instead of empty calories. I forage in the modern sense. I shop for fresh food every day. I skip the supermarket and support farmers through CSA programs and farmers markets. I eat local bread and pasta and food that’s preserved and conserved through canning, not sold in a can. I know the people who make my food and trust them to utilize the terroir and their expertise to feed me quality nutrient dense food from seed that isn’t contaminated or soil depleted from petrochemicals. I support the agricultural community I live in with my food dollars. Do you?


Touch a seed. Plant something you grow. Eat it and share it with others. Consume locally. It serves us all better. It’s responsible eating, from sources that care. It’s a sustainable system that can fuel the next generation too. It fuels your body and mind today and stimulates economic development in communities for the long term. I call that a victory!


We already know that shifting our lifestyle and diet so that they work in harmony for health, instead of obesity and illness, starts with seed and soil. Organic has become a buzzword in food that begs answers to questions we really don’t yet know. The demand for organically grown food has skyrocketed since the USDA enforced national standards in 2002, totaling about $28 billion in 2012, an increase of 11 percent from the previous year, according to the Organic Trade Association. Overall, organic products account for more than 4 percent of the total $42 billion food sales in the United States and are forecasted to grow to 14 percent by 2018.


We all know money talks. So as shoppers load up their carts with organic goods, farmers all over the world have responded in kind, producing more and more of their food with best practices ever mindful of the organic trend. But what if that organic lettuce is grown in China or California and you live in Manhattan or Copake Lake? And what if that chicken you’re about to dig into was fed organic grains, but it lived out its shortened life in a tiny dark crate and the organic grains happened to be genetically modified? Does this deserve the organic label we suddenly live by? Are we to safely assume bees, wind and butterflies were informed of the no fly zones between conventional and organic? Or is there a disclosure for contamination?


The dilemma is often cast as an elitist perspective, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Good food should not be a privilege. Our food choices present a very real, very modern problem that impacts environmental, social and economic change and affect every person in every walk of life everyday on every level. This isn’t about trend but about how we feed ourselves and our families — and the future of farming. And it doesn’t get more real or important than what you buy to eat — every ingredient, every meal, every day.


When I was growing up we just called it food, not “organic” food, and my mom shopped for a head of lettuce at the local farmer’s market. We never had to think twice about food miles and knew that the heavier the head of lettuce the better the value for a fixed price because we spoke with the person who made that lettuce head from seed.


We all have our food sins — mine is the real thing from a red can, even though it isn’t. If time-to-time we indulge in things that aren’t so good for us without building our entire lifestyle around the concept of drive-through convenience touted by food conglomerates, we are far better off.


Obviously, it’s complicated. Is organic healthier? Is local more nutrient dense? Is it possible to eat both local and organic without going broke? Is there a better choice in my diet for stuff that I know I shouldn’t eat and drink, but quite frankly I’m so addicted to simply for the taste? Why can I keep eating potato chips without ever getting full? And are they even made from real potatoes?


Instead of making our lives more complicated, why don’t we leave all of the complicated nutrition facts, percentages, formulas, claims, hypotheses and theories to the scientists cooking up their latest batch of petrochemical junk quasi-food at their gigantic, smoke-belching factories and keep it simple. Meet your farmer and ask questions, like we did when I was growing up in an agricultural community.


All you need is food, so why wouldn’t you invest in what you eat to avoid being sick or fat? Be conscious and spend your food dollars wisely. It saves you so much money in the long run paying it forward for good health with prevention. And in our agrarian society it is easy. But you have to make that choice. Shift your lifestyle by eating with awareness. Connect to what you eat and where your food comes from. Change the way you eat. It starts with food choices and sources. It’s that simple. Start today. FarmOn!


To contact the author, or @FarmOnFarmOn.


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