View Full Version : Support your LOCAL farmer

Dr Mordrid
28th June 2006, 01:16
This is so, so true....take it from an old farmer;


16 Organic Apples and a Gallon of Gas
By Christopher Wanjek

LiveScience’s Bad Medicine Columnist
posted: 27 June 2006
08:40 am ET

Do you like the taste of juicy organic apples from Washington? They're not bad, but they could taste sweeter if each one didn't involve a cup of gasoline.

In your quest to eat healthier food and do better by the environment, you might want to place more value on local food products than on organic foods.

It might seem sacrilegious to pooh-pooh organic food—that is, food grown in pooh-pooh as opposed to synthesized fertilizers and pesticides. But as revealed in the June issue of Sierra magazine, the environmental price for organic foods is sometimes hidden.

Simply put, one must consider transportation costs. Apples grown in the state of Washington are trucked, on average, more than 1,700 miles. That adds up to a cup of gasoline used to ship each apple. California grapes require up to 4 cups of gasoline per bunch when shipped across the country. And so on.

These calculations were originally published in 2004 in a book chapter in "Environment Development and Sustainability 6," by David Pimentel of Cornell University and his colleagues.

Go local

Also, mass-produced foods, either grown by organic or conventional methods, are usually picked well before ripening to prevent rotting during shipping. They are less tasty and contain fewer vitamins and minerals compared to local varieties. In fact, this summer is a good time to visit a local farmers' market and talk to the sellers about these issues.

I'm not anti-organic. I need to state that up front considering the angry email I received after I suggested that visiting untrained, unlicensed naturopaths practicing medicine based on medieval superstition could harm your health. I am, after all, reading Sierra, the pro-environmental magazine of the Sierra Club.

I merely hope to point out that blindly buying organically can be foolhardy.

Consider that unless you are eating rocks, all food is organic. Technically, organic refers to anything with a chain of hydrogen and carbon atoms. All living organisms are organic. So is gasoline. So is dry-cleaning fluid, which I now see advertised as "organic" by unscrupulous merchants capitalizing on the public perception that "organic" equals "safe."

What's in a word

The word "organic" has come to mean plant-based food grown without synthetic fertilizers, as well as animals fed organic food during the few months to few years they were alive. It doesn't inherently mean healthy or fair.

Organic manure could contain lead and cadmium, naturally. Organic junk foods can be just as unhealthy as conventional junk food, albeit with organic fat and sugar. The organic label says nothing about the rights of Central American workers growing organic bananas in squalid conditions, nor is it concerned with the similarly disgusting conditions in which organic meat, eggs and dairy products are often manufactured.

After all, organic is big business these days—nearly $14 billion in 2005, according to the Organic Trade Association—and big business is often business as usual.

Not so with local farming.

Local almost always means small-scale and thus more environmentally benign, fresher, healthier and cruelty-free. Talk to the farmer at the farmers' market. He might use a little pesticide but likely not much because the food product is well-suited to the environment.

Less gas

The apples I buy at a farmers' market in Baltimore are grown less than 50 miles away, and each apple "consumes" less than a teaspoon of gas on its journey to the market. Unlike the strangely happy cow on a carton of Horizon organic milk, the cows producing the (non-organic but hormone-free) milk sold locally walk freely and feed on grass and hay; they're not pen-raised and fed organic grains they cannot digest, as can be the case with some organic milks.

With support of local farms, fewer farms get turned into asphalt-covered shopping malls and housing complexes, which in turn means fewer natural wetlands, forests and deserts are turned into mass-commercial farms. Supporting local farms, organic or not, also fights our perverse global food market in which $20 million in U.S.-grown lettuce is exported to Mexico while $20 million Mexican-grown lettuce is imported to the United States each year, as reported in the May-June issue of Mother Jones.

Some of the food at my farmers' market is organic; other food is not. I don't worry so much, as long as it is local. I can trust the food because I'm buying it from the person who produced it.Dr. Mordrid

28th June 2006, 01:45
So? Why must this be "local vs. organic"? Our biggest organic distributors always get their products from as close as possible, for years now, because a better environment is good for health, too.

Fat Tone
28th June 2006, 01:50
We call it 'food miles' and it is just starting to get in to the public consciousness here, but only just. There are various campaigns to get the big supermarkets (we are dominated by 4 or 5 massive chains) to take note. Sheila Dillon's 'The Food Program' on BBC Radio 4 is the best example I can think of for educating people, but 3pm on Radio 4 is hardly prime-time.

Dr Mordrid
28th June 2006, 02:02
AZ; as noted in the article a lot of 'organic food' here in the states ends up being shipped across the country, esp. from California to the east coast markets.

The US is big :p

Luckily Michigan is a farmers paradise. We have farmers markets full of great crops all over the place, even in the cities. It's harder getting some things not to grow than the reverse. ie: wild carrots (Queen Anne's lace) or chicory everywhere the yard meets a building. Yes, we eat the carrots.

Dr. Mordrid

Brian Ellis
28th June 2006, 02:23
For once, I agree with Dr M. :) It is utter folly to transport food miles when perfectly good food is grown locally. Better still, grow it yourself to the degree of "organicity" that pleases you, if you can. Yesterday, I harvested:
peaches and nectarines (regularly treated with chemical low-persistence insecticide but picked after a safe period +2 days and thouroughly washed)
courgettes (squash), aubergines, green sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, radishes, parsley, sage, mint, ciboulette, basil (grown in composted soil, no artificial fertilisers, no insecticide or fungicide, rotated crops. The only chemical is a single spring-time application of metaldehyde slug bait when the plants were seedlings)
lemons (two applications of insecticide per year to combat Mediterranean fruit fly, a real pest for citrus fruits)

I was in a greengrocers' the other day and saw their peaches - not as good as ours - were imported from Greece at CYP 1.40/kg (=$2.80 [2:1 change]), courgettes (local) CYP 0.75, lemons (local) CYP 0.85, but mangoes (Ivory Coast) CYP 1,90/kg, pineapples from Ghana CYP?, bananas Jamaica CYP 1.35 etc. (Local bananas are now finished).

However, the most stupid transport is bottled water: always buy the most local one if your tap water is undrinkable.

Fat Tone
28th June 2006, 02:27
Don't forget all the cat crap in your compost, Brian ;)

How do you keep all those neighbours cats away from your crops? Ours think any freshly dug piece of earth is a 'convenience' for them :(

Dr Mordrid
28th June 2006, 02:41
A 115 lb dog who eats cats works nicely :)

I use regular applications of BT (bacillus thuringiensis) to ward off worms/slugs & tobacco/tomato leaf teas for insects in conjunction with resistant hybrids. Works fantastic.

Corn, green & wax beans, carrots, peas, chinese peas, broccoli, yams, Waltham butternut squash, better girl & Italian tomatos, swee bell, banana, jalopena and habanero peppers, various herbs etc.

Dr. Mordrid

Fat Tone
28th June 2006, 02:48
We've been concentrating on our extenstion this year, and some of the vegetable plot has had to be used for waste/materials storage, so its just peas, carrots, some self-sewn potatoes, rhubarb, and the apple tree is doing rather well despite the neglect. Sadly the green house had to go (infestation as discussed in previous threads) but the new owner brings us produce from it, and some rather nice ears of sweet corn :)

Dr Mordrid
28th June 2006, 02:51
No sense growing potatoes here. They grow like weeds & are quite cheap in the markets. Same goes for onions & corn. but I like growing corn for fun. Giant sunflowers too (for edible seeds).

Waltham butternuts can be interesting. Go away for a week & you have 10 lb squash on the fences, all over the yard and even climbing the trees. More than once we've been giving them away for almost 2 months :rolleyes:

Dr. Mordrid

Brian Ellis
28th June 2006, 03:25
Don't forget all the cat crap in your compost, Brian ;)

How do you keep all those neighbours cats away from your crops? Ours think any freshly dug piece of earth is a 'convenience' for them :(

It is a problem, but a 26 kg dog does help. Cat crap in the compost is OK, as it is well rotted. However, this year, we found the skeletons of a litter of kittens in the compost. The mother cat had found a nice warm spot to give birth. Don't know why they were abandoned (maybe too warm, maybe drowned in a rain storm). I know which cat was responsible and it has just had a new litter, this time next door. Our composting installation is outside our garden fence, behind a hibiscus hedge and is much beloved by hedgehogs. Unfortunately, brandling worms don't grow here, so composting is a slow process. We have two containers, each about 1 m3 and we can just fill one each year, an estimated 2 tonnes.

28th June 2006, 03:27
I recently watched a documentary called "The Future of Food". It was about GM seed companies abusing small farmers in the states. Some small farms (fighting the GM seed companies) are getting together with the towns people and selling them shares in their crops for around $50.00 to $60.00 a month. Every month the share holder receives a large box of fresh fruit and veg that is local and or organic grown. I found this to be a great way to help the farmers and at the same time encourage a very healthy diet. This is something I would like to see happen in my local area.


28th June 2006, 04:14
What kind of abuse? GMing the seeds so that the farmers can't reproduce the seeds with better specs themselves (by harvesting seeds)?

28th June 2006, 04:25
They sued farmers because of cross pollination. Something the farmer had no control of. The new GM seed had built in fertilizer protection that only worked with the correct fertilizer. Justice clarence thomas was a Lawyer for the GM seed company Monsanto.

Link to Film. http://www.thefutureoffood.com/synopsis.htm

28th June 2006, 07:03
Oddly enough Becky is working as a volunteer at the Master Gardener's Farmers Market in downtown OKC today.

Dr Mordrid
28th June 2006, 10:50
I don't have a problem with some GM foods. An example is golden rice and its newer forms whice are modded to create beta-carotine, which can prevent nutritional blindness and death due to vitamin A deficiency (VAD). 2 million die and 500,000 go blind from VAD a year in the third world.

Only problem is that anti-GM protesters, Greenpeace etc. are getting their way :rolleyes:

Dr. Mordrid

28th June 2006, 17:40
I'm with Az, in Oregon local = organic most of the time. In Portland (the largest city @ roughly a million) there are 3 farmer's markets I can walk to from work during a single week.

28th June 2006, 17:55
We've a couple fairly large farmers market here as well.
There's a large menonnite presence in the area, and folks come from hours away to shop there.
The price is much better than the grocery stores, and it's all locally grown.
Other than that, we do tomatoes,lettuce,cucumbers,peppers and zucchini in our own small garden.

Dr Mordrid
28th June 2006, 20:04
Some of my family were Pennsylvania Dutch/Mennonites who converted to Lutheran.

The largest part of the family as a whole are still farmers with most of the rest going into public service (medical, police, fire & military), aerospace and engineering.

Dr. Mordrid

29th June 2006, 13:33
I don't have a problem with some GM foods. An example is golden rice and its newer forms whice are modded to create beta-carotine, which can prevent nutritional blindness and death due to vitamin A deficiency (VAD). 2 million die and 500,000 go blind from VAD a year in the third world.

Only problem is that anti-GM protesters, Greenpeace etc. are getting their way :rolleyes:

Dr. Mordrid

But you have to agree that the GM company is only looking out for number one. They have been allowed to patent life and dictate to farmers what and how they grow crops. How any sane person can defend the right to patent life is beyond me. These companies have no interest helping people no matter how they modify nature. Are we so naive to believe that they want to help!! We need more protesters!

Dr Mordrid
29th June 2006, 15:08
The #1 that the company watches out for are its investors, and contrary to what most people think these are not largely 'the rich'.

FAR outnumbering them in dollars invested are institutional investors like colleges, unions, retirement plans, small cities etc. etc. etc. and the vast numbers of individual investors with 401k's, IRA's, Roths and whatever investment schemes other nations allow their citizens.

Here in the US almost 60% of individuals have such investments.

Patenting DNA sequences is necessary else there is no financial return on investment, therefore no mass research done. That would retard treatments for many diseases including AIDS, cancer, bird and other flus etc. etc., to the detriment of the entire human race.

BTW: DNA sequences are not life. Lifeforms with them included are, but since these are products they too should be patentable....just like any seed hybrid or cattle breed can be.

DNA based patents are not unusual. Most nations recognize them.

Dr. Mordrid