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The complexity of the food processing industry

7 July 2009 1,246 views No Comment

We were selling at a Farmers Market and an elderly farmer’s wife stopped by to look at our offerings.  She looked at our “Organic” sign and said “Honey, we’ve been growing organic since before you were born,” and if you know anything about the green revolution after World War 2 you can understand her statement.  Before the invention of ammonium nitrate for bombs, farmers relied basically on organic means to grow their vegetables.  We went from every community having a fresh food market to almost none.  Before the establishment of the industrial food complex, grocery stores and refrigeration, communities relied on their local farmer to grow a market garden for their fruits and vegetables.

They ate what was in season in their region; consumers knew the farmers and their families and purchased what was available.  They put fruits and vegetables “up” or “canned” so that they could eat them in the off season.  Then technology started to advance growing and storage techniques and all other aspects of life.  The marketing gurus during that time advanced the concept of convenience and free time.  Prepared foods, can goods and frozen foods were the rage,  Going to the local farm was phased out by stores that had everything in one place.  What marketing was selling to everyone was convenience and free time. Slowly but surely Free Time and the profit motive was the death knell for the small family farmer. 

As industrial farming took hold and these huge monolithic behemoths started turning out tons of one product the laws of mass production and economy of scales took over and the small farmer could not keep up.  The farmers grew what was called a truck garden or market garden, because he or she would take the vegetables from the garden, put them in a truck and go to the market and sell what they had picked.  What we lost with the growth of these monolithic farms was the individual family growing vegetables for their community and so too coincidently we lost taste and freshness of the fruits and vegetables.  Tomatoes picked green and shipped miles away can’t ripen on the vine while in travel, nor would they ever taste like one right off the vine. 

What we gained from the loss of market gardens, freshness and taste is the game of Russian Roulette.  Illnesses and sometimes death resulting from pathogens in our industrial food supply has become common place.  Corporations have shown time and again, when faced with a decision to stop production and clean up after tests prove contamination, they have a laissez faire  additude.

Yes, we have always had to take precautions with our food, but the sheer number of recalls makes one pause.  Nothing beats local for freshness, taste and safety.  The consumer has the ability to talk to the person or persons that grow the food, be it animal, vegetable or mineral.    More and more people are supporting local farmers because they see value for their money.  It is more expensive to grow organic; consequently, it is more expensive to purchase. There is value to going to a local farm or a farmers market and buying from them. 

If you take out the carbon footprint, the freshness, the taste, the true cost of operation, if you take everything out of the equation but a base explanation you are left with human kind’s last fuel source and the person that toils for it.  It’s a passion, a mission and a fundamental activity that sustains life.  It’s not the profit motive but a social conscience that motivates us to provide food for others.  Yes, we all need to make money to provide and small farms do need to make a profit.  It’s imperative in the sustainable model, but that doesn’t mean that every decision we make is dictated by the profit motive or what effect it does to our stock price.

The profit motive, stock prices and yearly bonuses are the norm in big business.  Tell me, do you really want to leave the growing of food to the faceless people behind the industrial food complex, knowing their main concern is if they can make a profit and raise the price of their stock?  Isn’t our health more important than money, and haven’t our taste buds suffered enough with petroleum derivatives, synthetics and other man made food additives? 

So make the right choice, find someone that is growing vegetables for your health, talk to them, visit the farm see how it is being run. Not everyone is growing for your health and we call them hucksters.  Buy vegetables when they are in season and you’re guaranteed local. Learn what vegetables are in season in your area.  If someone is selling corn in Maryland in June, it wasn’t grown here.   So it is not local corn because it is not in season yet.   Ours will be in July  and we do not cater to the industrial food complex.

Buy Local!!

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