Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A New Food Philosophy

What happens when you take back responsibility for your own food supply?

  • You eat healthier and more interesting foods and become a healthier (and more interesting!) person.

  • You reconnect with nature and the rhythms of the seasons and become more grounded.

  • You feel secure and empowered because you know how to provide for yourself and your family.

  • You save money.

  • By your simple acts, you protest against industrial agriculture and its destructive practices.

  • You become a role-model for health and sustainability.

I've noticed something interesting happening with me this year as I get more serious about growing my own food. I'm starting to understand how everything fits together--ecologically speaking. I'm getting a good sense of how much I should grow of any one thing and how much land and water each thing requires. With that kind of understanding, my eating habits automatically begin reverting to healthier and more sustainable patterns (by reverting I mean going back to the healthier ways of my ancestors).

Okay, so the average person in the US consumes 136 pounds of flour per year. Do you know how much land is required to grow that? What about for a family of four? I believe John Jeavons says we can expect about 10 pounds of yield per 100 square feet. So, at current consumption levels a family of four would need to allow 5,440 square feet just for their wheat.

How much land is required to provide our 89 pounds of beef per person? How much land for our sweeteners?

Once you start to think about all of this, you realize how out-of-balance our diets have become. When we left the farms and started buying our food at the supermarket, we lost our common sense. When we lived on farms we grew sensible amounts of everything. We automatically understood sensible portions on our plates, because we understood sensible portions out in the fields. We had to work those fields so we didn't take anything to wild extremes. But once we shifted to industrial agriculture and mega-supermarkets, we lost that knowledge. At the supermarket, we can buy any quantity of anything. We can buy enormous quantities of anything (and everything). The supermarket is a fantasy land--it makes you think anything is possible. It hides the truth. We obliviously buy our 136 pounds of flour, our 89 pounds of beef, 52 pounds of chicken, 154 pounds of sweeteners... and never for one second consider how much land and water is required to grow and raise all of that.

So we buy ridiculous (and unhealthy) quantities of food. Imagine what our ancestors would think if they saw into our cupboards and fridges and freezers. How their jaws would drop! How utterly irresponsible we would look.

As long as we continue to think that our food comes from the supermarket, rather than from the land, we will continue to allow destructive, unsustainable agricultural practices and we will continue to eat very unbalanced and unhealthy diets.

Growing our own food reconnects us with the real. It gets us out of fantasy land and leads us toward the things that really matter.

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