In today’s society, people do not often think about what they eat. The majority of American citizens choose the most convenient and cheapest foods they can buy at the grocery store, not taking into consideration how it got into their hands. What some do not realize is that many of the foods purchased at the super market can be grown at their own home, saving the cost of fuel for shipping and also preserving the environment.
One can encounter some difficulties trying to choose local food items. Many foods we consume do not grow locally. In northeastern Ohio, for example, bananas are not an ideal choice when considering global health. They travel many miles to reach a store here, and are often less fresh, while using and wasting natural resources in the process.
Grow your own food
Many people also complain that it is too expensive and somewhat impractical to grow food at their own home, but even purchasing from a local market or farmer can assist in reducing the demand for universal food transport. On the other hand, it is understandable how someone who lives in the city could struggle with this issue because of the lack of land available to farm, along with the fast pace of city living. However, I still believe at least some of those individuals could purchase certain foods from a local farmers’ market in order to conserve resources. Those who do own farm land should use it.
I do not live on a farm. At least I would not call it a farm. Still, with the available land we have, we keep a small garden filled with tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, squash, beans, cabbage, and various peppers. In addition to our garden, every other year my family raises chickens which we butcher and use for a variety of meals, including homemade chicken noodle soup.
My mom, sister, and I spend time canning tomatoes together before winter and use them for spaghetti sauce along with other delicious items like salsa. We also buy our corn from a local farmer and after removing the kernels from the cob we bag and freeze large amounts of it each year to use for meals. I am not saying that my family completely lives off of what we grow in our garden, but a good portion of our dinners come from things we’ve harvested ourselves.
Not only do our own vegetables and chickens taste more delectable (for whatever reason), but we are also contributing, at least in some way, to help the issue that is brought about by the constant purchasing of non-local foods. It is not that difficult to choose to grow some of what we eat on our own, and it often tastes better anyway.
Alternatives: Why it can payoff
Many individuals argue that gardening is an expensive hobby. An article from USA Today describes the possible burdens and difficulties of gardening, “Gardening is not cheap. That first garden might require the purchase of tools…Gardening is not easy…you have to concern yourself with weeding, watering, soil enrichment, drainage, mulch, keeping kids soccer balls out of the garden…”(Oberg 2009). While it is easy to see that gardening may be a hassle for some people, there are several benefits that will, over time, outweigh the bothersome aspect.
After the first garden, there will come many more. The amount of food one can produce from one’s own garden will surpass the initial aggravation of the beginning garden. On this note, Barbara Kingsolver declares in one of her essays, “When people protest that gardening is an expensive hobby, I suggest they go through their garden catalogs and throw out the ones that offer footwear and sundials. Seeds cost pennies apiece or less” (Kingsolver 2002). This point makes a reasonable amount of sense.
Seeds are very low cost, and will produce an abundance of fruit or vegetables. Some work is required, but it’s still very doable if approached correctly; seeds used to grow one’s own garden can often make a change in the many resources that are used to process and ship foods to different areas of the United States.
So, What Are The Facts?
The American diet guzzles gas in a very effective way. A large portion of the food we like to eat is not cheaply packaged or shipped. Barbara Kingsolver points out in Lily’s Chickens, “Americans have a taste for food that’s been seeded, fertilized, harvested, processed, and packaged in grossly energy-expensive ways, then shipped, often refrigerated, for so many miles it might as well be green cheese from the moon” (Kingsolver 2002).
This is likely a rude awakening for all of the people in our nation who love junk food, and who don’t bother to take one second to realize what they’re putting into their own mouths. I think that if individuals cared about or realized where their food was coming from, or even stopped to think about what had gone into it, they would make different choices about what they ate. A cheeseburger that costs very little from the dollar menu of a fast food restaurant may be much more costly than anyone realizes.
Barbara Kingsolver addresses this issue in Small Wonder: She addresses a simple everyday food item, hamburger, and analyzes precisely what goes into each quarter pound of it. She says it requires “100 gallons of water, 1.2 pounds of grain, a cup of gasoline, greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to those produced by a six-mile drive in your average car, and the loss of 1.25 pounds of topsoil, every inch of which took five hundred years for the microbes and earthworms to build.” Is that really only worth a couple bucks at McDonalds?
What she says here is important. The items she mentions in this section are NOT cost-free. One should question where all these resources are coming from, and why we don’t have to pay for them. The waste is enormous for such a small product, and the worst part is that it can be done more economically. Kingsolver also mentions in an essay that she and her family support local farmers whose cattle are grass-fed by purchasing eggs and chickens from them (Kingsolver 2002).
Although she does not say so directly, Kingsolver gives me the impression that she feels it is less wasteful and more efficient to feed livestock on grass, making the nutrients within it useable to humans, and that feeding grain to animals is not really necessary. Again, I completely agree with this thought. I’ve always believed that it’s better to make use of something that wouldn’t normally be usable. This idea is very prominent in raising livestock, because we can absorb the nutrition from the grass and plants their bodies can process, but ours cannot. It all comes back to the natural aspect of food. In most cases, the natural way is the best and most efficient way.
There are so many possible routes to improving our nation’s efficiency when it comes to food options. A website called Local Harvest provides names and locations of all the local farmers’ markets, family farms, and other food grown in the area. It also lists where you can buy produce and grass-fed meats (Local Harvest, Inc. 2009). This is just one route I personally discovered that can improve our earth, proving that there are many other possibilities. It just takes time and care to change the way we look at life.
Does It Really Matter THAT much?
Well, yes. Buying foods from local markets helps economically by supporting the local farmers in your area. It is also a better guarantee of quality because usually the less an item has to travel the fresher it is, therefore it is much more advantageous to buy foods locally, both economically and health-wise.
In summary, although it may be difficult for some citizens living in large cities to grow their own food, it can still be bought locally in order to save the cost of shipping. I believe it is helpful to grow at least some food at home. It limits what is bought from stores and saves money, also saving the cost of fuel. It is also true that the path of production can be altered in order to make our resources more useful.
Everyone should be able to contribute in some way to the environment and cost efficiency by growing some of their own food or buying it locally. I can understand how it can be difficult for some people because of the fast pace of life today or in the midst of the commotion of city life, but I still think there is at least some way each citizen can help to preserve the environment. No matter which approach is taken, what is being done will be beneficial to society, and then it will all be worthwhile.
- Kingsolver, Barbara. (2003). Small Wonder. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
- Local Harvest, Inc. (2009). localharvest.org
- Oberg, Alcestis. USA Today. (2009). “The Truth About Gardening.” USA Today. truthabouttrade.org