Food choices are so much more than food choices

I have deep memories of growing up that involve food. My mom cooked every night. We were not a family that journeyed to McDonald’s or Burger King. Nor did we experience boxed macaroni and cheese or Twinkies or Lunchables. My mother was never more excited than when her Southern Living or Gourmet magazine came.

I remember when I has about 10 years old my family went for a Sunday drive and we discovered a roadside farmer’s stand. That began a weekly habit of driving every weekend to Beverly and Donald Burton’s farm to pick up fruits and vegetables.

Around that time the “egg-man,” as we called him, began to deliver farm fresh eggs directly to our house on Saturdays.

Labor Day weekend meant canning tomatoes. A couple of weeks later was applesauce. We always had some of Nannie’s (my dad’s aunt) hot pepper sauce around. As I grew up and began to figure out my own life I carried these traditions with me and added to them (canning and freezing of more fruits and veggies; making vanilla, mustard, breads, pasta; having a root cellar).

I became a vegetarian during my last year of college. This began without any intentionality whatsoever. The college I attended did not serve the most appetizing options in meat. So, I stopped eating it. After I graduated, I couldn’t afford to buy it, as I was making $2000 a year in my first job (1988) and $75 a week in my second job (1989), so I continued to not eat it. During this time I began to read and learn more and more about our food system’s impact on our environment – both physical (Earth) and human (body).

What I learned was astonishing, and it made me angry. How could we be destroying our own bodies as well as our planet? From manufacturing to marketing, our perceptions of food are shaped by what we see around us. The big food companies have figured this out and use it to their advantage. Sugar, salt, fat are the cornerstone of the mass production of food. This trio ensures flavor as well as preservation for long shipping distances. I read about companies efforts to find the “bliss point” and to enhance the “mouthfeel” so that consumers will purchase their products. And, how they appeal to our desire for ease and immediacy. The result is an epidemic of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity.

Then, there is the impact of factory farming: pharmaceutical drugs administered to farm animals, downstream water contamination from leaching waste pits, environmental racism in the location of factory farms, more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry, ocean dead zones, rainforest destruction, mercury contamination of fish, and so much more. To me this just seemed to contradict ahimsa at every turn – respect for all living things and not causing harm to others.

From everything I learned I came to understand that the most powerful way I could combat this manipulation, harm, and destruction was to choose not to engage in it as much as possible.

Our family has supported a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program, and the egg man continued to deliver to our house until he passed away in 2008 or so. We still travel to the Burton’s farm on weekends, and for the past 14-years we have supported a farm that delivers dairy, eggs, fruits, veggies, our Thanksgiving turkey, and so much more directly to our house. We are fortunate that our local farmer’s market is open all year. Our girls have had the experience of knowing where their fruits, veggies, eggs, dairy, and cheese come from. They have met the farmers and walked the fields, and they have met the cows and fed the calves.

February 22nd was National Community Supported Agriculture Day. Community Supported Agriculture is a term that was first coined in the 1980s. Since then CSAs and the philosophy behind CSAs has spread across the country. From CSA Day’s website:

“CSA stands for “community supported agriculture,” which is a direct-to-customer business model for farmers. In the traditional CSA model, people pay for a season’s worth of produce (a membership), sometimes months in advance. The CSA member then receives a box of fruits and vegetables every week throughout the harvesting season. This is great for the farmers because they get the revenue when they most need it to get ready for the growing season.”

If you are interested in Community Supported Agriculture or farmer’s markets this is the perfect time to check them out as CSAs are taking new sign-ups and farmer’s markets are preparing to open in March and April, depending on location and if they are not all-year round. For more information visit:

Local Harvest – CSA
Local Harvest – Farmer’s Markets

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