Wednesday food post: Real food is in danger!

My last food post was about raw milk. I wrote that post in part to spread awareness about it, but also in part because it’s a food item that is currently in danger. In the past month there were several members of my raw milk cooperative that got sick. Some people tested positive for campylobacter. Immediately suspicion rose surrounding the fact that they were consumers of the raw milk, and the news just took off with it (despite the fact that there was also a contagious stomach virus going around). I was really unhappy with the amount of bad journalism that went along with this scandal- their headlines were all over the place and misleading, and it was just kind of a mess… What was so encouraging was the outpouring of comments that came from other raw milk drinkers/cooperative members that defended the local farm and got the papers to fix those headlines. They’ve been working to educate people through this incident, but the work is far from over.
What ended up happening was that the farm shut down their deliveries for a week while they did extensive testing. It all came back clean, and the testing done for just general milk quality came back as being impressively good. They resumed deliveries and had us all fill out surveys. There was soon an article published that stated that they had found positive samples for campylobacter in the cooperative’s milk. Next thing we knew the farm was shutting down their raw milk distribution because they’d experienced increasing pressure from the FDA, "and notwithstanding the private nature of our herd lease and share arrangement, these pressures embody serious risks." This was extremely disheartening, especially considering that we are all shareholders, and are not members of the general public when it comes to these products- meaning that we should not be susceptible to the FDA’s pressures in this matter. Within the next week we received another message from the coop stating that the article misquoted someone, and that there were no positive tests of the milk. For now the farm has decided to continue distributing the milk, and they are also going to be testing it for quality/pathogens 3 times a week now. I’m sure it’s not the last that we’ll hear of it.

The fact is, people get sick from food sometimes. The best guard that we have against it is by caring for our food properly and taking care of the living organisms/land that give us that food. I hate that we have to hold our breath to see if a great family farm is going to lose everything because of a suspected link to some bacteria. Even if it was linked to the farm’s milk, would that be a good reason to shut them down? This is a farm that lets their animals roam and eat grass, doesn’t pump them full of hormones and antibiotics, has a relationship with it’s customers, and to my knowledge has never been the cause of any sickness (only healing in most cases). Honestly, if they had found positive samples I’d still be getting the milk. I think our perspective is really impaired. How many foods out there make us sick slowly, in less obvious (but far more severe) ways? I’ve read that even according to the FDA website you are over 500 times more likely to get sick from eating deli meat than you are from consuming raw milk. And yet, most of the people I know who are squeamish about the milk I drink have lunch meat in their fridges right now. I could rattle off a whole host of "foods" that are causing almost nothing but poor health- from the way it was grown and the toxic way in which it was produced/packaged to the actual ill-effect it has on an individual body. And yet, a small family operation is almost always at risk because the laws are primarily set up to protect a greedy corporate bottom line. I may be a cynic, but I see so much evidence that we are at risk of losing real, natural foods because they don’t support an unsustainable industry.

Here’s just a little taste of that theory in action, just a few days ago:

"Despite declining bee and butterfly populations from agricultural chemicals, on Saturday the US Senate approved President Barack Obama’s nomination for chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Monsanto lobbyist Islam Siddiqui. “Dr. Siddiqui’s confirmation is a step backward,” said Tierra Curry, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity (the "Center"). “His appointment ensures the perpetuation of pesticide- and fossil-fuel-intensive policies, which undermine global food security and imperil public health and wildlife.” "

Here’s the rest of the article, for those that are interested. Here’s also some information on the evil that is Monsanto, if you don’t know already. It’s stuff like this that makes me want to bang my head against a wall. What the hell are we doing? Why do we let this happen?

I don’t want to write this to be depressing, but I’ve decided that to feel a little depressed might not be a bad thing in light of what we’re looking at. After years of research like this, I’ve found that the best things to do are to take these food matters as much into your own hands as possible. I don’t know how to bring down Monsanto and the like, but I’m taking steps to figure out how to liberate myself and my community from their stronghold. These are just some of the ways I’m trying to fight back:

  • Education. This can be a daunting task. I’ve been known to dive in with such a thirst for this knowledge only to find myself months later feeling incapacitated. This happens all the time- it’s a taxing process, especially considering the implications of this knowledge. However, I feel like my capacity for it and my energy for it grows as time goes on, and I keep finding myself in new and improved places- places that are closer to my goals of living in a sustainable and ethical way. Educating myself, although tiring at times, has proved to be an integral part of this process. I know many people who feel tired just thinking about starting this process. I’d say that it’s important to just think about it, to ask yourself some questions, and maybe pick away at a book that’s been recommended or something. Even if you can only do a little in this area, that’s better than nothing.
  • Find out where your food comes from. I can’t stress this part enough. This is something that everyone can do, and should do. We should always have a relationship with what sustains us. Something that really resonated with me recently was the idea that people will defend and care for that which they can relate to. People protect and care for their kids, their families, their homes, their jobs… What happens when we’ve lost our ability to relate to the most basic of things? It’s simple, we stop defending and caring for those things- and that has landed us in a world of trouble. If we start thinking about each food item that we put in our baskets, we begin to build that relationship again. I think there’s a lot of healing to be seen if we only ate more mindfully. I don’t know what each individual’s food ethics will be, but I know that it’s important to have them. We all need good food to survive. We should have an opinion about what it is that we’re eating, where it came from, and what kind of impact our food choices have on the world. 
  • Eat as locally as possible. This can sometimes be hard to do, especially if you don’t have access to a food cooperative or something like that. I’m very lucky to have a good coop that has an awesome bulk section that labels these things for me, so I don’t have to do all that research. I think most people, though, can find a farmer’s market and buy fresh veggies/meats through the warm season- and you’re supporting your local farmers! You can also choose to go without certain things. Personally, we generally don’t eat bananas or non-local fruit anymore (although I do admit to scarfing it at other people’s houses… watch out!). Like I’ve said before, I think non-local food systems are making us delusional. I’ll go into more detail about this on another day, but I think eating more locally is a powerful step towards a more sustainable future.
  • Grow your own food. I know that many people don’t feel that they have the time or space to grow food- but I would argue that you can! I know that everyone can put a pot on a windowsill and grow a few herbs, at least. It’s also amazing what you can grow in one raised bed, or in a few big pots on a patio. This is one of the easiest ways to reconnect with and reclaim our food. For me, it’s just taken me on a journey- and I can’t see doing it any other way. It can also be really low maintenance if you want it to be, and you will always get something that tastes way better than from the grocery store.
  • Compost. I’ve recently become a little bit of a compost Nazi (for lack of a better word). Our modern way of eating depletes our soil, and if we keep taking and taking from it, we’ll lose that valuable resource. Haiti is a good example of a place once full of vegetation, only to have the soil exploited and ruined and it was left as a wasteland. I’m not saying that compost will ultimately save our soil, but it’s a terrible thing that all of our good compostable food gets locked up in plastic bags and left to rot in a landfill- spreading disease and all around nastiness. It could just be food for the earth, breaking down the way it was meant to. I am starting to believe that it’s everyone’s responsibility to help facilitate that process. You can compost with a bin under your sink, too, it doesn’t have to be a big expensive outside set up. You can even take your food scraps to someone else’s yard (or a local community garden or something) for them to compost. 

 

Those are just a few of the things that I’ve been working on to try to combat this serious situation. There are so many more things to be done, but these are things that I really have control over, and that is empowering. I personally feel like I need to be empowered in order to feel strong enough to move forward and get more involved. If I focused on all the things I can’t do then I would probably just not do anything at all. This stuff doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can be really fun and rewarding. I’d love to hear the ways that you are taking food matters back into your own hands- or even just about what you would like to do but feel like you can’t. Share!

Gracie
Gracie

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Comments (10)

  1. ladyfaith3

    It discourages me that I can’t have a garden. I don’t own a home and we live inside city limits…but it is tremendously encouraging that there are farms all around and markets to buy good healthy food items 🙂 I am sorry to hear about your milk supplier. My friend posted to her blog about buying a cow and that the small dairy farm she purchased her from was in big trouble, barely making it…it sounds so sad, the good clean and hard working people can’t hardly survive.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Yeah, that’s great that you have lots of markets to choose from. I hate hearing about those local farms struggling, but it’s happening all over the place. All the more reason to eat local!

      Well, I challenge you to grow some stuff in big pots this year!

      Reply
  2. purerandomness

    This is the year we will start a compost! I seriously think we could halve the amount of trash being put out every week by just composting our vegetable scraps. Eventually I hope to be able to put in egg shells, but I’m not sure about local animals getting into it.

    It’s all about baby steps, right? So we’re making small changes: first cage free eggs, next produce grown only in the US then moving more locally (there was eggplant from Holland this week: how much energy did that cost to ship here?) Learning how to store food (eg canning and making jams). Who knows how far we can go? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Yay compost! We avoid putting in meat and dairy products, but we totally throw in all our egg shells. I’ve read stuff that says you should rinse them or roast them first, but I’ve read more stuff that says not to bother and that they’ll break down fast. I’ve never had a problem with animals, either, but I’m sure it happens sometimes.

      🙂

      Reply
      1. cknk

        compost

        One of the political things to do would be to contact your town or city councillors and try to encourage them to start a municipal compost collection program. My city just started on this year, and because of the way they do it, they accept meat and dairy scraps as well as non-recyclable paper products (like the butcher paper our meat comes wrapped in). So now we can keep our veggie scraps for our own compost, and yet have the rest composted elsewhere. Our garbage bags have been reduced to almost nothing.

        Reply
        1. Gracie (Post author)

          Re: compost

          That’s awesome! Our city does compost- but just grass clippings and leaves from the fall. That’d be so cool if we could give them everything else! This year, our chickens will eat a lot of it, so that’s cool. 🙂

          Reply
      2. purerandomness

        You can give your chickens the egg shells you have leftover: it’s a good source of all sorts of minerals for them. We also used to just feed our chickens any broken eggs we found in their coop. It’s kind of creepy sounding, but really good nutrition for them and kept them producing LOTS of tasty eggs for us!
        I don’t know if I asked you before: are you planning to have them lay year-round? You can rig up some lights to keep them producing through the winter. My dad had it set on a timer for so many hours each morning in the winter months.

        Reply
        1. Gracie (Post author)

          I heard about that! Kinda creepy- but I guess they eat just about anything! But did you guys grind them up or something first? I heard that if you do feed them eggs you have to kind of disguise them or else they’ll eat the eggs they lay…

          I would like to have them produce year round. I guess we’ll have to do some cost/energy analysis and figure it out. If we do decide to I’ll definitely be shooting questions your way about how many hours, etc. 🙂

          Reply
          1. purerandomness

            Honestly, with cracked eggs we’d just toss them onto the floor of the coop. We never had a problem with them attacking whole eggs, but maybe that has to do with the breed? We had black and white hens, I’m not sure what they’re called.

            My parents are coming to visit this weekend, I’ll ask my dad some questions about what he did and let you know!

          2. Gracie (Post author)

            Awesome! I’d love to benefit from his experience!

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