Our decision to switch to a vegetarian lifestyle was motivated by serious health issues my husband was facing. Although we’ve always been animal lovers, it wasn’t until after we became vegetarians that we really started learning about the terrible ways that food animals are raised. That probably would have pushed us to vegetarianism eventually if we hadn’t already made the switch. We didn’t know a lot about how our food was raised until we changed our lifestyle and now I keep learning that even as vegetarians, we have to make ethical decisions about where we get our food.
Organic Gardening magazine is one of my go-to resources for all things gardening and I love the website as well. It’s a great source of information, not just for gardening, but for healthy eating and healthier living. Today they have an article on the “8 Foods You Really Need to Buy at the Farmer’s Market.” I assumed it was going to be mostly focused on the better taste and nutrition of farmer’s market produce, but I was shocked when I found out WHY these foods are suggested. Here’s a rundown:
Everybody knows that a homegrown or at least small-farm produced tomato is far superior to commercially grown, mealy, tasteless varieties. What I didn’t know is that in FL, where 1/3 of tomatoes are grown, slave labor conditions are common for the illegal immigrants that do most of the work. Also, farmers in Florida use five times as much fungicide and six times as much pesticide as farmers in California, which supplies another third of the country’s fresh tomatoes.
Not only do homegrown carrots taste better, they’re also better for the environment. The energy used to store carrots out of season or ship them for long distances accounts for 60 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with carrot production.
Berries deteriorate quickly after picking, so they’re often shipped from farm to distribution center via air freight, the most fossil-fuel-guzzling form of food shipment, from South America, Mexico, Canada and other far-off places.According to Food & Water Watch, the United States imports $220 million worth of strawberries, while selling just $1.5 million worth of US grown berries.
Buying your onions at the farmer’s market could actually help save a local farm. A few years ago, the U.S. loosened up on trade restrictions with Peru, and now there’s a huge supply of onions coming in from Peru, dropping the price local farmers can get for their onions by half. At the other end of the production, in Peru, things aren’t so great, either. The main pesticide used on Peru’s onion crops, methamidophos, has been linked to sperm damage in farmers. And yes, it’s in your imported store-bought onions.
Asparagus is now Peru’s largest agricultural export. The USDA requires all shipments of fresh asparagus from Peru to be treated with the dangerous pesticide methyl bromide, a neurotoxin believed to cause cancer.
Aside from the fact that supermarket peaches usually taste awful, According to the Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to Produce, peaches are sprayed with more pesticides than any other fruit. Buying local means you can get organic or at least talk to the farmer about what chemicals he or she uses.
7. Anything Organic
Not all farmer’s market products are organic, but many are and we should be trying to buy them. According to Cornell agricultural researchers, 11 percent of our food’s environmental impact comes from food miles, and 83 percent comes from how it was grown, particularly when it’s grown by using the more common greenhouse-gas-intensive fertilizers and pesticides used on commercial farms.
8. Grass-fed beef and dairy products
Animals raised entirely on grass produce 8 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and 30 percent lower ammonia levels than corn-fed animals raised in. Since the term grass-fed isn’t well regulated, buying at a farmer’s market allows you to ask farmers direct questions about how they raise their animals.
These are some excellent reasons to do more of your shopping at a farmer’s market or local co-op. CSA farms are also a great choice. They’re the next best thing to growing your own.