Our Modern Food System is Not Set Up for Good Health
Cheap food is really more of a curse than a blessing.
Agriculture has undergone huge changes over the past 70+ years. Many of them were heralded as progress that would save people from hunger and despair.
But, today, we are faced with a new set of problems driven by the innovations and interventions that were meant to provide people with safety and prosperity.
Since WWII food production has been all about efficiency and lowering cost. Today, we see what this approach has brought on heightened disease statistics and a faltering ecosystem.
The success of the processed food industry has come at a tremendous price to the people who eat it. As their lives are now at stake due to diet-related diseases. Many people have also become incorrectly convinced that eating healthy is a complicated equation requiring lots of nutritional data.
They are wrong.
It is very much simpler than one might think. Eating healthy is really about eating REAL food, meaning food as close to its natural state as possible. Avoiding agricultural toxins like pesticides is also part of the answer. But sadly this is not the kind of food American farmers are currently focused on producing.
This is where the PBS program, “Food Forward,” comes in. It it asks: What has agricultural progress brought to the table? And: Is the farm bill actually helping or harming our food system?
Since the launch of the “Green Revolution”, which is anything but “Green” food production has gone through a transformation characterized by centralization and monopolization. Fewer and fewer people are growing more and more of the food we eat.
On the one hand, this system has created less expensive food.
At the beginning of the film, Secretary of Agriculture, head of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Tom Vilsack, notes: “The American farmer gives us this extraordinary diversity in our grocery stores. We have affordable, accessible food. In fact, it’s so affordable that we have a lot more of our paycheck [left] when we leave the grocery store, as a percentage, than almost anywhere else in the world.”
Friends, cheap food comes at a steep and mostly hidden price. Not only does cheap food promote poor health, it takes an enormous toll on our environment. By polluting and destroying soils and water supplies, our chances of obtaining healthy food in the future are sorely diminished.
So, what looks like progress is a big step backward, in terms of creating long-term food security. Cheap food is really more of a curse than a blessing.
A societal discussion needs to take place about how we can move forward without continuing on this destructive path. That discussion is what this program is trying to ignite.
The Great Depression of the 1930’s was tough for most Americans (grew up just after it, learning about if from my family), but farmers were particularly hard hit.
Plowing up the Southern Plains to grow crops turned out to be a massive miscalculation that led to enormous suffering, as the area turned into an uninhabitable and unworkable “Dust Bowl.”
The US Farm Bill was an outgrowth of these hard times.
On the one hand, farmers were overproducing certain crops, such as Corn. On the other hand, people were starving. The Farm Bill promised to help farmers by buying up surplus food, and alleviate hunger by giving it to those less fortunate.
After World War II, the tools of war were re-purposed as tools for farmers. Chemicals were increasingly foisted on farmers as a means to simplify the growing of crops, and for a time, that seemed to work.
But it also became apparent that to further lower the price of food, size was an important factor.
“Get big or get out,” became the motto.
Over time, the farm bill became less about protecting small farmers, and more about supporting the really big ones.
Again, the small farmers were left to fend for themselves, and that is where we are today. What began as a beneficent intervention to sustain agriculture and ensure food security has morphed into a scheme where American taxpayers are subsidizing industrial farmers that produce low-quality food that promote ill health and disease, and big pharma.
Aside from the environmental harm being done by CAFO’s and chemical-dependent agriculture, the current food production system takes an incredible toll on human health.
Many children are not getting the nutrients they need in order to thrive, especially in the US where nearly 40% of children’s diets come from added sugars and unhealthy fats. Just 21% of youth ages 6 to 19 eat the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Your best bet for finding healthy food is to grow your own. If that is not possible, your next best bet is to connect with a local farmer that grows food and raises animals according to Organic standards.
Remember, even if you are not a farmer, you can still have an impact by implementing regenerative aspects such as no-till, plant diversity, and using ground cover like wood chips into your home garden.
Along with that, plant some pollinator species to provide a habitat for pollinators.
Monarch butterflies, for example, need milkweed to feed and reproduce. When purchasing bee friendly plants , make sure they have not been pre-treated with pesticides that are toxic to bees.
Most importantly, as a consumer, use your USD’s to promote change, and educate others as to the importance of nutrient-dense, toxin-free food. Every time you spend money you make an impact, whether you are buying Organic heirloom seeds for your garden, Organic grass-fed food for your family, Organic cotton clothes or any other Organic items, furnishings and building materials.
It all adds up, and together we can drive larger industries that have such an enormous impact on our environment and health toward more sustainable, regenerative practices.
If you live in the US, I have listed below some organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods, as follows:
EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other farm-fresh produce. Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.
Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase Organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling Organic and grass-fed meats across the United States
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other good food.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO “organic” production from authentic organic practices.
If you’re still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws. California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available atwww.OrganicPastures.com.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively
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