If you are like me you keep one ear turned to the news on a daily basis. And in the past few years I have noticed that we are seeing more and more stories about the lack of safety in our food system. We have seen reports of tainted spinach from California and contaminated lettuce from New Mexico. Who knows what will be the next food health scare. That doesn’t even take into consideration things like heavy metal contaminates and banned pesticides found in foods grown in other countries. People are not just getting sick to their stomach as a result of these incidents, often they are dying.
In the spirit of Independence Day I want to help those of you who are interested become more independent from the large agri-farm food supply that has taken over our food supply in the last fifty years. I am going to give you a few simple steps to move you towards declaring your food independence. This can help protect you from some of the lack of safety issues we are finding in our food supply system.
I always recommend to anyone who wants a safe food supply to grow their own vegetables or raise their own animals. There is no better way to insure your food safety then to raise the food yourself. But I also realize it is not practical for many of people to grow their own vegetables. Let’s face it the only way some of us can have a green thumb is to stick it in a can of paint. Then some of us just don’t have the time or the space or we are not interested in growing our own food. It is a time consuming, although I find an enjoyable, activity. So what steps can you take to make sure your food is as safe as it possibly can be? Here are a few steps.
First, Get the middle man out of your food supply as much as possible. I love trips to the grocery store, but the truth is buying directly from the farmer or rancher is generally much safer. A small farmer is much less likely to cut corners to save a few pennies, then a big food farm. Once a local reputation is ruined you pretty much go out of business. So find a local source for whatever food you are looking for. I have found that whether it is vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy or eggs it is getting easier to locate local providers who raise their own food. Local agriculture is growing every year. To find local food sources visit localharvest.org or call the local farm extension office in your county.
Second, make a trip to the farm or ranch if possible. Inspect the cleanliness of the operation and ask questions about how they raise the product you are interested in. At Common Ground Farm we offer tours during the season every Saturday at 10am. We want people to see what they are getting and feel good about their food. Like with a chef, ask the farmer if he eats what he grows. If he doesn’t leave!
Third, our growing season is a bit opposite from the rest of the United States. We grow fall, winter and spring. We can grow a few things during the hot Florida summer but most popular vegetables simply won’t produce if they can live at all in the hot Florida sun and survive the summer insects. Learn to can, dehydrate and freeze vegetables from the rest of the year to carry you through the summer. It isn’t hard to find the information on how to do it or find a class. A good place to start is pickyourown.org.
There is much I could share with you that we have learned over the years. But it is best to start off slowly with the basics. Even modest changes in how you eat can offer tremendous health benefits and these 3 simple steps are a good start. Realize this is a journey and it starts with the first few steps. Don’t try to do it all at first. Start with something that is comfortable for you and then expand taking control of your food supply gradually. If you are committed to this before you know it you will only be going to the grocery store once or twice a month and only carrying a few bags of items. I hope this helps. And remember today is a good day to have a good day.