After a busy weekend of braving APPLE FEST 2009 and apartment hunting in PA (that's one of our stops shown), I finally got the chance to read the Newsweek article I posted last week - I hope you all had the chance to read it too. I posted the article because of its relevance with current trends in society to "go green." I unfortunately think too many people are "going green" because it's the "hip" thing to do, not because it can mean better environmental stewardship or lifestyle. I believe James E. McWilliams in the interview is getting at the same idea.
McWilliams makes some good points about becoming a localvore and the organic food movement, especially when talking about food miles and food waste. It makes sense to me that one has to take into consideration not only the distance a food travels to its end selling point, but also the energy, natural resource, and financial inputs necessary to produce a particular product. However, if I am able to support a small farm, regardless of whether it is under conventional or organic management, by purchasing their products at a farmers market in my town, I will because I know I am doing my part to help my local economy. McWilliams' cry for wasted food is a common problem for American families, but two simple solutions are buy less (which comes after one learns to cook appropriate proportions for one's family size) and start composting (a topic I hope to write about SOON since it's fairly easy, even for city dwellers!).
Throughout my undergrad and graduate years of schooling, I have found that conventional and organic farming are both right and wrong, good and bad - there both are double edged swords that come with benefits and downsides. My personal view and goal of my thesis has been to take the best of both systems to create a holistic approach to farming and in the end gardening. So when I read McWilliams' statements on GMOs and pest control in organics, I gave both a sigh of relief and banged my head against the wall (in my case the desk at my office). My reactions went as follows:
Interviewer: ... You also acknowledge that there are unknown health risks in consuming GM foods, but that we shouldn't stop growing them. Do you really think it's worth the risk?
Me: WHAT?! ARE WE SERIOUSLY STILL IN 2003?! [bangs head on desk] Where do I even begin explaining that GM crops are pretty much in everything that contains high fructose corn syrup...
McWilliams: 90% of the corn in the country is GM, and it's not just going to animals, it's going to high-fructose corn syrup. ...There are possible [health] concernes with all kinds of seeds that are conventionally bred as well... I've talked to too many plant biologists who said this is a technology that if used properly can serve very real environmental and humanitarian needs.
Interviewer: ... Factory farming is bad... Consequently, many people have turned to grass-fed beef.
McWilliams: Many grass-fed cows are eating grass that's been fertilized or irrigated.
Me: Well, yes and no. My great uncles have an organic beef cattle farm that is naturally fertilized with manure and rain-watered (as is everyother type of beef cattle farm). True, there are some places that do use supplemental fertilizers and irrigation, but I will vouch for the people who don't, including a number of cattle farms I have personally visited in Veracruz, MX where farmers rotate their herds through grid sections of their land every few days so the grass growths through a natural process of growth and feeding sessions.
Overall I agree with McWilliams on the point that the public should be cautious of "fundamentalist ideals" when it comes to both eating locally and organics, a problem some Ithacans currently face. My suggestion to everyone is get educated. Talk to the people behind the table/counter at the farmers market and get to know their establishment - how do they produce their food? What measures are they using on their farm to improve their environment or keep it at status quo? What lifestyle changes can you yourself make to save on waste, drive less, eat food you know was produced with the best practices in mind, whether its conventional or organic? By learning, talking with the people who produce your food, and making connections with local establishments, you will truly become a localvore.
Plant on and rock on,
Song for the Garden: Merrymaking at My Place - Calvin Harris
Photo Credit: 60 N 2nd St., Easton, PA taken by DPW 2009
... And now I'll get down from my soap box and down to the ground to plant those mums in the morning!