Articles

Food Recalls…How safe are we?

By Carmella Hensyel

Food poisoning, Botulism, E. Coli, Hemorrhagic Colitis, Hepatitis A, Listeriosis, Salmonella, Dysentery…the list goes on and on…Not only are the foods we’re eating not giving us the recommended nutrition we need, but according to the FDA, these same foods are killing us and our family members at an alarming rate of 13 men, women and children per day due to food borne illnesses. It’s appalling that this is happening in our country every single day in this day and age.

Young children, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system suffer the greatest risk; however most of the above mentioned illnesses are of great risk to all of us. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that roughly 76 million people in the United States suffer food borne illnesses each year, 300,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die. According to the CDC children younger than the age of 4 are sickened by food more than those in any other age group, but adults over age 50 suffer more hospitalizations and death as a result of food-related infections.
Food recalls and food related illnesses and deaths have increased nationwide. Food was meant to nourish our bodies; our food safety system needs to be reinvented to fit the needs of today. It’s time to rethink what we’re doing and understand why the current system is not working.

The New York Times recently quoted Dr. David Acheson, associate commissioner for foods at the FDA to say “The system needs to be modernized to address the challenges and changes of the globalization of the food supply and rapid distribution chains” and Dr. Stephen Sundlof (director of the agency’s’ food center) stated “As supply chains get longer and longer, there’s more opportunity to introduce contaminants that have a public health effect.”
Having the variety of foods we have available to us is wonderful, but the truth is that we’ve gotten spoiled. It used to be if you didn’t grow it or couldn’t buy it locally you did without it. We’re not willing to do that now; we’re not willing to make sacrifices to help ourselves, our communities, our environment or our economy. We are an instant gratification, quick fix, feel good society…but at what cost? You can change some of this, but only if you’re willing to be part of the solution.

Eating and buying locally grown and raised foods will ensure safe foods. The reason local foods will be by far the safest is because these growers are feeding these foods to their own families. Organic meats, fruits, vegetables, herbs, wine etc. can be found closer than you think…Here are 5 helpful tips to help you live a longer, healthier, safer life…

1. Plant a garden-You can construct a garden no matter how small or large an area you have. Cinder Block Gardening produces the best crops, uses the least amount of tools and can be used in just about any size area, under just about any conditions. Buy cinder blocks to fit the area you’ll use, mix up a “no fail” soil and plant away-no drainage problems, no weeds, no failure. Row gardens are traditional but they take a lot of work, weeding, fertilizing, tilling etc. There’s also Container gardening, great for small areas (even apartment dwellers). Any style or size container you can think of will work; you’ll just need to adjust each container you use to be plant friendly. Drainage, soil, moisture levels etc. will all need to be watched closely and adjusted regularly until you find what works best.

2. Buy locally grown food-Shop at your local farmers markets, co-op, food shed, or health food store. Ask where your food was grown and if it’s pesticide free. You may not even realize how many growers are within 100 miles of your home. Do your homework, they’re out there. I guarantee it.

3. Join a Co-Op-If you don’t have a lot of time or space to plant your own, or would rather share the gardening experience, join or start a co-op. Co-ops are great because it’s a community project that you can participate in and benefit from.

4. Read labels-The little stickers on every piece of fruit and vegetable you purchase tells you exactly where it came from and how it was grown. Labels with four digits indicate conventionally grown food (using pesticides). Labels with five digits starting with an 8 indicate that the food is genetically modified (stay away from these at all costs…Genetically Modified Organisms are by far the worst foods to consume). Labels with five digits starting with a 9 indicate that the food is organically grown (without using pesticides).

5. Educate yourself-Subscribe to community newsletters. Know where your food comes from. Buy locally grown foods within a 100 mile radius of your home. Share your knowledge and speak up when it comes to asking questions or voicing your concerns about foods you and your family will be eating.
Be aware of the dangers that inhabit your cupboards, refrigerators, lunch boxes and grocery stores…Buy Organic, Buy Local, and Buy Fresh or better yet, grow your own…

Carmella has been working with The Living Farm for some time and they are currently in the process of producing a documentary DVD about the Locavore movement. Carmella also grows her very own cinder block garden, shops locally and supports her local growers and farmers.


Who needs a green thumb?…even the green giant will envy your vegetables

By Carmella Hensyel

Spring is definitely in the air…so you’d better get ready for the warm days and the opportunity to spend your free time outside in the sunshine getting your garden ready for this year’s harvest.

You say you don’t have a green thumb…None needed…Picture this if you can…an entire vegetable garden made out of cinder blocks…Yes I said cinder blocks…a cinder block garden is the most no-nonsense approach to a neat, easy, virtually weed free and productive garden.

A cinder block garden takes less time, less money and less water to plant and grow your very own fruits and vegetables. These days with little or no free time on your hands, you’ve given up or forgotten about some of the things you once enjoyed…Like growing your own vegetables and fruits right in your very own garden. Imagine, succulent and delicious fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy through the spring and summer months (you’ll also be able to preserve these wonderful tidbits by canning, freezing, dehydrating or root cellaring).

With the cinder block method, not only will you have a plentiful harvest, it will be the easiest, garden you’ve ever grown…If you’re a beginner all the better, you’ll never have to know the drudgery of weeding, or rototilling. Being hunched over for hours or on your knees pulling weeds until your back just can’t take it any longer is now a thing of the past.

The reasons are clear for the ease and convenience of this method…Using a good soil mix to start with, leaves no necessity to rototill, with good soil you have good draining (even after a soaking rain) and best of all you never walk on this soil so it stays light and fluffy…It’s so fluffy that you can dig in the garden with your hands, which eliminates dragging your gardening tools in and out and making sure they’re clean, sharp and rust free. You’ll use less fertilizer, this is another great bonus that saves money because you concentrate the fertilizer to the plants only, just add the fertilizer to the planting beds and there’s no need to walk through wet, soggy, fertilized ground…Your rows are clean, weed free and dry.

The very best part is that this method is virtually fool proof. This is a fantastic gardening system that will fit every age and every lifestyle. Children LOVE being in the garden and the joy they experience watching their food grow from seed to harvest is amazing. Plus they won’t need to stomp through the garden to pick the veggies, less mess inside and out and with no weeds to pull, they’ll enjoy the experience, not dread it.

It’s also a fan favorite of senior citizens…Older people who thought that their gardening days were over are now ecstatic that they too get to enjoy gardening again with ease and convenience with little or no physical limitation. You’ll also get a place to sit while you garden (cinderblocks are stacked 2 high, which gives you a great ledge to sit on while planting, watering, weeding and picking). Each cinderblock weighs about 29 pounds, so you may need a little help getting started, but once it’s built you’re good to go. It’s just as easy as snapping Lego’s together…no need for nails, hammers or saws.

Handicapped individuals can now join in with the family gardening…With everything being up and off the ground makes this a possibility for just about everyone to enjoy the experience of growing your own garden…Even city dwellers (with a small patch of yard or driveway) can establish a bountiful crop.

The cinder block system can be used in any State under just about any condition, so if you’re ready to grow your own vegetables this spring and summer, you’d better get started now…Not only will this method have you harvest more vegetables and fruits but you’ll also save money on seed, fertilizer and water not to mention the amount of time you’ll save. We can all use a little more time.

This method is truly a gardening revolution… The configuration of the cinder block garden lets you concentrate your time, water and fertilizer to the growing space alone. It’s a combination of ancient gardening techniques and modern equipment brought together making this the easiest gardening system around…Who says you have to have a green thumb???

Don’t hesitate…get started now…Happy Gardening…

Carmella lives in beautiful Western Colorado with her hubby, 3 grown children, and 6 grand children, while growing a cinder block garden of her own-see how -> http://www.cinderblockgardens.com. Carmella also supports the Locavore movement and believes that if everyone had a garden, no one would ever go hungry and suggests you build & enjoy your very own cinder block garden.


No Nonsense Gardening

By Carmella Hensyel

I’m a city girl through and through and when I moved out West I wanted to learn it all. I wanted to learn how to camp, fish, garden and can my crops (ha, ha, ha). Well I didn’t much like the camping, the wildness of the outdoors was just not what this city slicker was looking for and fishing…YUK…need I really say more? Than there was gardening UGH…what a time consuming, dirty, back breaking experience. How could I get away without doing this part???

It was exhausting. My first year I decided to plant a 10′ X 10′ traditional row garden…what the heck was I thinking? This was more work than a full time job while raising 3 kids, but I loved having fresh fruits and vegetables…and I loved canning them too…What a sense of accomplishment that was for me, making my own preserves, tomato sauce, relishes the list goes on and on…the problem was in order for me to can I needed to have fresh fruits and vegetables…yes I could have bought local fruits and veggies, but somehow that seemed like cheating and it wouldn’t save me much money if I had to buy the food than preserve it…just thinking about it exhausted me…than I met Lynn, the author of a wonderful book titled Cinder Block Gardens…finally, a dream come true…I got to learn how to grow a beautiful, bountiful garden without rototilling, without weeding, without digging, without getting dirty, without bending over for hours on end and without the drudgery of the task at hand…

Cinder Block Gardening…hmmm, never heard of it, sounds silly, but what the heck…if it makes gardening easier especially for a gardening newbie like myself, I figured why not give it a try? What could it hurt? If I hated it, I’d stop…right? Right.

To make this really, really, really easy just follow these two simple steps… Step one-get the book and step two follow the directions…can you believe this? Can you believe it’s this easy? IT IS!!! Scouts honor…this is truly a book for the gardening impaired (that would be me).

OK here’s the deal, this method will not only give you a plentiful harvest, it will be the easiest, garden you’ll ever grow…no kidding…this is the honest to goodness truth… If you’re a beginner all the better, you’ll never have to know the drudgery of weeding, or rototilling. You’ll never have to experience being hunched over for hours or on your knees pulling weeds until your back just can’t take it any longer, that my friend is now a thing of the past-I wish I would have learned this sooner. Too bad camping and fishing weren’t this easily enjoyable (smile)…

The truth is that the first time you build your cinder block garden it is a little more challenging and labor intensive than it will be for the years to come, you do need to build the blocks (but it’s just like using Lego’s-imagine that???) but once that’s done, the rest is smooth sailing. There’s absolutely no need for nails, hammers, saws or wood. And if you can talk your friends, your hubby or your kids into helping you build the blocks, you’ll be gardening in less time than it takes to do your grocery shopping.

You do need to use a good soil mix to start with, (recipe is in the book) which leaves no necessity to rototill (yeah!!!), which produces hardly any weeds (yeah again!!!) and with good soil you have good draining (even after a soaking rain) and best of all you never walk on this soil so it stays light and airy and your shoes stay clean and dry (one more time…yeah!!!) and you can usually pick your vegetables and fruit with your bare hands because the dirt isn’t compacted. You’ll use a lot less fertilizer (less smell, save money)…Your aisles stay clean, weed free and dry and the amount of vegetables and fruit you’ll grow will knock your socks off.

So whether you’re a city slicker like me or just need a care free, fool proof, abundance of vegetables and fruit to feed your family, share with your neighbors or sell at the local farmers market, this is truly the way to go.

So all of you wannabe gardeners, city slickers and busy people out there…don’t say you can’t do it, don’t say you don’t have time to do it, because if I can do it…trust me, anyone can…But you’d better be prepared to learn to can, freeze or dehydrate your harvest, because there will be lots and lots of it…Enjoy your yield for the rest of the year and by this time next year, you’ll be a pro…just like me…

Carmella lives in beautiful Western Colorado with her hubby, 3 grown children, and 6 grand children, while growing a cinder block garden of her own-see how -> http://www.cinderblockgardens.com. Carmella also supports the Locavore movement and believes that if everyone had a garden, no one would ever go hungry and suggests you build & enjoy your very own cinder block garden.


Are you really eating healthy?

By Carmella Hensyel

You’re having a salad for lunch, you’re steaming your veggies, you’re counting calories; carbs and fat, you’ve even cut processed sugars from your diet…GREAT…but are you really eating healthy? Probably not… most if not all of your vegetables and fruits are treated with pesticides. Unless you are currently eating organic or all natural foods, you ARE ingesting pesticides.

Pesticides (all pesticides) create harmful risks…just by the nature of what a pesticide is and what it’s supposed to do, you automatically know it’s harmful to humans, animals and our environment. Pesticides are designed to “kill”, not that they are intended to kill people or animals, but they are created to affect living organisms…and what are we???

Did you know that pesticides could cause a variety of cancers? According to the Environmental Health Perspectives (www.ehponline.org) leukemia, neuroblastoma, Wilms’ tumor, soft-tissue sarcoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and cancers of the brain, colorectum, and testes have been linked to pesticide exposure…pesticides can also cause neurological problems and interfere with a child’s development? Every time you eat pesticides, you’re poisoning your body, the bodies of your family members and even your unborn children…pesticides can cause low birth rates and increase the chance of birth defects. Children are more sensitive to pesticides than adults. You may want to check out what the EPA has to say about pesticides…the facts and statistics are unnerving.

When we shop for our food we settle for ease over education…with so many things to choose from, we often go for convenience and cost without thinking about or realizing what the alternatives and consequences really are.

Our food is being shipped from all over the world…we’re not only getting our foods shipped in from across our own Country, we’re getting fruits and vegetables shipped to us from other Countries (yes, I said other Countries). So not only do we need to worry about where these foods are grown, but we need to worry about how they are grown, what they were fertilized with and what pesticides are being used and who is regulating the pesticides in these other Countries? Pesticides found on produce don’t necessarily mean there were excessive pesticides used, but persistent residues in the soil or wind dispersal of pesticides from nearby fields need to be taken into account as well. This information needs to give all us a lot to think about, but it also needs to make us more aware of our options.

Washing and peeling your vegetables and fruits does NOT ensure you’re eating a pesticide free product. Some pesticides can seep into the flesh of the food and some pesticides are made to “stick” to the food to avoid being washed away by rain, so a quick rinse under the faucet cannot and will not remove them. So even if you’re taking precautions, there are some vegetables and fruits higher in pesticide residue than others…washed or not…such as fresh peaches, fresh and frozen winter squash, fresh green beans, apples, and pears…so what exactly are you eating???

Eating organic and natural foods may seem overpriced and inconvenient, but you don’t always have to go to a health food store to find pesticide free foods that are affordable and still organic or natural. A couple of ways you can do this is to find your local farmers market or food shed where “local” organic and natural foods are grown and where the overhead isn’t as high as the health food stores. There are affordable ways to eating pesticide free while supporting your local growers and knowing where your food comes from. Shopping and eating locally grown and raised food not only benefits you, but it helps to preserve your communities, your economy, your environment and most of all your health and the health of your family and friends.

If you grow your own fruits and veggies, you still need to be aware of the risks of using pesticides in your own garden…a pesticide is a poison regardless. Growing a worry free garden may not seem possible, but it is. There are lots of “organic” and “natural” pest control recipes you can mix up in your own kitchen. I found some great organic pest control recipes online.

Keeping sweets, trans fats, preservatives and processed foods out of your diet is a great first step to good health…but the number one thing you need to keep out of your diet is pesticides…

Carmella lives in beautiful Western Colorado with her hubby, 3 grown children, and 6 grand children, while growing a cinder block garden of her own-see how -> http://www.cinderblockgardens.com. Carmella also supports the Locavore movement and believes that if everyone had a garden, no one would ever go hungry and suggests you build & enjoy your very own cinder block garden.


Grandma’s Garden…it’s good for your heart,it’s good for your soul…

By Carmella Hensyel

For all things produced in a garden, whether salads or fruit, a poor man will eat better that has one of his own, than a rich man that has none—J.C. Loudon, from An Encyclopedia of Gardening.

Is there anything tastier than a freshly picked piece of fruit, vegetable or herb? I don’t think so…

My grandma used to make homemade tomato sauce, with freshly grown tomatoes and freshly picked oregano and basil from her garden, smells so sweet, I don’t believe there’s a more satisfying aroma than that of freshly picked basil, I can almost smell it now just thinking about it. With my mind full of memories (all initiated by food smells, tastes and textures) I think back to that simpler time…times when we ate what we grew or what was grown nearby…I recall Saturday mornings, strolling down the avenue of our Brooklyn neighborhood, right there in the heart of New York City…with rows of vendors selling their fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers…everything grown right there in my neighborhood (or not too far away, just like the farmers markets of today)…If grandma didn’t grow it, we went to see who did…

Not only did the vendors allow you a little taste to be sure you went home with the flavors you expected, but they gave you a taste because they were proud of their crops…the accomplishment of hard work, dedication, perseverance and mostly pride, brought forth in the labors of their love…it was also a time to visit with your neighbors, trade recipes and enjoy the beauty of the day and all the wonderful smells that went with it…

Money may have been tight back in those days, but love was abundant and when food was grown and made with love, it was magnificent…that’s the same feeling I get now when I visit my local farmers market, food co-op or a nearby grower, and you can too…You’ll sense the pride each grower has in each piece of fruit, every vegetable and in every tender herb they’ve grown. There’s no need for pesticides, no need for fancy packaging, no need to read labels to see where this magnificent food came from…You’ll know without hesitation that this is from the earth of your community…

Growing up in New York City, there wasn’t much space for us to grow a garden, but we made do with what we had…Grandma always used small pots (a container garden) for the herbs, and being Italian, we went through many…and for her world famous tomatoes she had trellises moving upward to make room for the abundance of tomatoes she grew in her raised bed garden…now you must understand, we were apartment dwellers back in those days and grandmas garden was literally grown on the roof top…yup…a New York City roof top…that’s the reason we didn’t have a conventional row garden, but grandmas garden was magnificent…at least it was to me…

As I got older, moved to another big city & started a family of my own, gardening just didn’t fit into my lifestyle, so I went and purchased my herbs and tomatoes at the grocery store where it seemed everyone went because all of the street vendors were now a thing of the past. Everyone went to the grocery store…it was convenient, it was cool in the summer and warm in the winter and I could get out of there in no time flat…but boy have times changed…

Now, many years later, I am a grandma myself…I live in the country where I have plenty of space to grow just about any type or size garden that I’d want to grow…I also have access to hundreds of local growers and farmers (and all within 100 miles of my home)…

But I decided I wanted to do a couple of things differently now that I was a little older, a little wiser and had a little more time on my hands…I wanted to give to my grandchildren the same wonderful memories my grandma gave me…to plant a garden together, to nurture our food which in turn nurtures our bodies, our minds, our hearts and our souls…I wanted them to know foods with no pesticides, foods that were grown right here in grandmas back yard…and even though I could have any type of garden I could ever want to have, I chose grandmas style of garden…A raised bed garden…the only difference is that I use cinder blocks instead of wood…this makes my beds last forever (wood will rot after a few years). Cinder blocks are easy for me and the grandkids to handle and build our beds with (it’s like putting Lego’s together). There’s no need for nails, hammers or saws…which works out fantastically if you’re gardening with children…My cinder block garden has given us years of wonderful fruits and vegetables, but by far the very best thing my garden has given me are wonderful memories with my grandchildren and hopefully, yes, hopefully for my grandchildren to have wonderful memories of me.

Grandma has been gone a few years now and I miss her tremendously…but every time I get a whiff of my own freshly grown basil, I feel like I’m 7 years old again, the reminiscent smell of the fresh air, mixed with the scents of herbs, vegetables and soil…I close my eyes, breath deeply and a smile comes across my face…thanks grandma…

Carmella lives in beautiful Western Colorado with her hubby, 3 grown children, and 6 grand children, while growing a cinder block garden of her own-see how -> http://www.cinderblockgardens.com. Carmella also supports the Locavore movement and believes that if everyone had a garden, no one would ever go hungry and suggests you build & enjoy your very own cinder block garden.


Know Farmers Know Food

By Brook Le Van

Abe said it well. Too bad we didn’t heed his words more because, unfortunately, in the last 60 or so years we have gradually become an increasingly more oppressed people. The oppression I speak of is subtle, yet powerful, and it has gradually eroded our health and deprived us of great richness in our lives. In the history of our species we, who live in the “developed” world, have never been more disconnected from our food.

Most of us don’t know the weathered smile of the person who grew our morning oatmeal. We don’t know the beauty of the morning mist rising off the pasture and the tingle of the down-valley breeze at sunrise where our burger once grazed. In our entire experiential memory files, we cannot access the hen’s boast after laying her morning egg or the iridescent glistening of sunlight bouncing off of a rooster’s plumage in the barnyard. We cannot find the sound bite of a new born lamb’s first call to its mother. Most of us have no record of the muscle constriction and gentle consistent pull required to coax a mature carrot out of the earth. Where in us is the scent of releasing a turnip from the nearfrozen fertile soil in autumn?

We are still today mostly what we were when we evolved from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens during the Pleistocene epic 250,000 years ago. We knew the world then as hunter-gatherers. We had direct connections to all our food. As we developed we became pastoralist, and then horticulture began to dominate our food intake. All this led to agriculture, and as archeological record so far tells us, our habit of planting and harvesting began a mere 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. At this point we still knew our food.

Our relationship with food begins to erode after our discovery and harnessing of fossil energy. Parallel to our discoveries of new energy sources and revolutions in mechanizing labor is also an unprecedented accumulation of wealth for a few, and hence the concentration of power. These are forces that work very hard to maintain the status quo, to create and keep the systems in place that protect the wealth and power as it is.

Our deepest disconnect from food takes off right after World War II. Tooling up for the war, businesses were called upon by our government to change from the manufacture of tractors and cars

and trucks to jeeps, tanks, bombers and destroyers. This was patriotic and we achieved our goals of conquering evil and making things better off in the world. This, however, left the government indebted to all those companies that heeded the call to arms. What we have in 1945 is a whole lot of companies lined up to produce machines, materials and chemicals and no market for their products. So the corporations called in the debt and our government, succumbing to industry’s pressure, created policies that supported large-scale production and mass-marketing of their goods by establishing tax structures and financial subsidies that give them the edge. This giant industrial machine, no longer focused on taking out a fascist dictator, went to war on our air, soil and water in the form of the new and improved agriculture.

Along comes Earl Butz in 1971, appointed by President Richard Nixon as Secretary of Agriculture. In his time heading the Department of Agriculture (DOA), Butz revolutionized federal agricultural policy and re-engineered many New Dealera farm support programs. His mantra to farmers was “get big or get out,” and he urged farmers to plant commodity crops like corn, soy and wheat from “fencerow to fencerow.” These DOA policies and new industrial farming practices coincided with the rise of major agribusiness corporations, the declining financial stability of the small family farm and the collapse of many rural communities nationwide. In short, and opposite of all the spin given to this “Green Revolution,” what happened was that our community’s and our nation’s food security started to deteriorate. This brute-force move toward large-scale broadened the gap between you and your food, and issues of trust have emerged that never were a consideration when you could look your grower in the eye. Just 100 years ago, 99 percent of Americans had something to do with the production of the food they ate. Now, less than 1 percent does. This deterioration of our quality of life, what I am calling a form of oppression, has been orchestrated. But we have also bought into it.

The upshot of all this is that when I get into this discussion with my interns and staff, we keep coming back to dirt, soil and our hands in that living medium, and a much more direct engagement with the production of our food. What we understand about real solutions is that many of them are going to have to be local — locally grown food, locally derived energy, local manufacturing. It is the general relocalization of our economies that is our best hope for building a strong and resilient nation. And if we are to regain those deeper sensations that build healthy selves and trust that our food is safe, then we must KNOW FARMERS if we are to KNOW FOOD.

So Mr. Butz, and all your big agribusiness cronies, we have a different slogan for you. The chant now, coming from the bottom up and loud and clear, is “Get Local or Get Out.”

Brook Le Van, driven in life predominantly by flavor, is the cofounder and director of Sustainable Settings, a nonprofit land-based demonstration and research institute — a Whole Systems Learning Center — near Carbondale, a place and program devoted to reviving small-scale diversified farms and ranches, the bedrock of local food and energy security.


The Power of Local Food

By Brook Le Van

When it comes to food, many of us do not take the same care in choosing what we buy and eat as we would in a new car or our next elected government official. We might look for color and ripeness but most of us do not think much about what we are supporting when we choose food for tonight’s dinner. Let’s face it, we are putting up with a deliriously boring lack of flavor in the foods available in our stores. You know this produce: these are the fruits and vegetables designed for their attractive color, longer shelf life, and their superior ability to be mechanically harvested not for any reason to do with the nutrition or flavor they might pass onto us. All of us, one time or another, have a taste memory of that late summer tomato. Eaten like an apple, its juices seeping into every taste bud, our bodies shouting a resounding YES! What happened to that flavor? I want it back, at least seasonally, whenever I can get it.

When was the last time you asked your grocer about the farm that produced the food you buy or how it was grown? We don’t question how the animals are raised that produce our meat, eggs and dairy products. We don’t ask how many miles our food has traveled (read: carbon footprint and the greenhouse gas emissions related to distant food) or how our spinach is washed. That is until someone gets sick and the media brings it to our attention and food fear sets in. What all this brings up for me is that each of us has power. We have a vote, the power of our purchasing dollar, and we are not taking advantage of it to stimulate positive change, positive flavor.

“You are what you eat” still rings true. The same molecules that make up the food you eat and feed your children, family and friends becomes the molecules of your and their minds and bodies. The food you choose has an impact. In other words, you can choose to either further the intelligence, health, and well-being of yourself and the people you care about or not by what you choose to buy. So, unless you grow your own food and know where it comes from, you should choose your farmer as carefully as you choose your family doctor or preacher.

What this translates to when you go to the grocery store or decide, better yet, to buy from a local farmer or rancher, is that you have a vote, a powerful vote each and every time you spend money. Your purchasing power, especially when added up with other consumers making the same choice, is the driving force to stop the production of damaging products such as pesticides and herbicides. Your vote can encourage companies and farmers to change their methods to more benign, or even beneficial practices. Your food dollar vote affects choice by encouraging diverse regional varieties to be grown and made available in local markets. What we decide to buy also affects whether our surrounding landscapes are preserved as working local farms or are turned into suburban cul-de-sacs. Finally, our choices at the cash register have a lot to do with determining the health of our community’s and our planet’s air, water and soil.

There is no reason why anyone in the Roaring Fork Valley should be buying their meat from anywhere other than one of our local ranchers. Beef we do very well here. We have farms and ranches to support and save right here in the Valley and on the Western Slope. The farmers and ranchers who have survived the onslaught of development would love to have your business.

We have done some good work in the last 20 or so years. When we decided to eat organic the giant corporations that dominate the food system got it and responded. They listen when there is money to be made. Well, now it is time for us to take the next step. It is time we reclaim the homegrown pleasures we once knew. We need to let our local farmers know we support them and show the powers that be that this is what we want.

Remember the market is a commons. It does not belong to the companies. It is ours. It is for all of us. So, let’s take back the market! It’s time to exercise our vote. When it comes to spending your money for food, first inform yourself by asking the basic and simple questions: Who grew this? Where is it from? How was it raised? Then vote, vote plenty and vote often. And vote close to home each time you buy food. Buy local organic first, next choose local, and third look for organic.

The power of you asking means that they hear it from you firsthand. As we turn up the volume they listen. Then we will taste the sweet return of flavor and once again have choice. Then, too, we will be actively participating in building a healthy place to live, one delicious bite at a time. It is really that easy and trust me you will taste the benefits.

Brook Le Van, driven in life predominantly by flavor, is the cofounder and director of Sustainable Settings, a nonprofit land-based demonstration and research institute — a Whole Systems Learning Center — near Carbondale, a place and program devoted to reviving small-scale diversified farms and ranches, the bedrock of local food and energy security.

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