Final post, but the journey does not stop here

I feel like this should be the soundtrack to my final blog post of the semester and for Prof Davis’s sake, I will try and keep it short.

I was glad to choose the local food movement because there were so many factors that were involved in the “buy fresh, buy local” movement. I tackled issues concerning factory farms vs family (organic) farms, the increasing prevalence of a meat-based diet and how this effects CAFOs, the effect that our food system has on the corn industry, the environmental and health effects for humans due to CAFOs, and what I believe to be the most important, the advancements that local farmers have made in producing the most food/acre while using “green-er” methods.

There were many more interrelated topics I chose to delve into, some humorous, some not, but at the end of the day (*sports cliche*) I feel like I have made a life change. I also hope that I have encouraged others to consider where their food comes from.

That is where I started my blog and was a theme I wanted to highlight through various blog posts. We should ALL know where our food comes from- how it makes it from field, pasture, or dirt/feces farms to your grocery store and eventually to your plate. This stuff does matter. We cannot ignore the environmental impact of factory farms because they affect whole ecosystems- earth, water, wind, fire, and heart (Captain Plant joke, sorry, prof Davis).

In all seriousness, factory farms are not a sustainable method to feed America and the rest of the world. We need to protect our grasslands, rivers, streams, air (CO2 emissions), and especially our animals. We are raising them to be bred for our benefit and maximize their use. It would be like if America was forced to take steroids, vitamins, minerals, and hormones so we could all be bigger, stronger, smarter for the corporations in which we are employed (I exclude the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and lets throw in track and field and cycling for good measure).

We are messing with mother nature and you know she can be a vengeful woman. Let’s make amends in any way we can. Support Farmer’s Markets or local grocery stores such as Friendly City Food Co-op. Avoid fast food if you are able to financially and if it is merely a luxury for you and those around you.

I know I will continue, to the best of my abilities, to persuade others to put a dent in the success of factory farms by supporting local farmers and in turn, their local communities.

Take care, Professor Davis! Thanks for a great semester

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Advocacy Event- With Photos!

Here are some wonderful pictures from last Saturday’s Friendly City Co-op tour. It was a time and a half so let’s re-cap the afternoon with a picture diary….

Here is an information table. Tri-folds, pamphlets, flyers… Good stuff- pretty much all you could ask of a good informational table

Here is an artist’s rendition of what Friendly City will look like this coming June when it opens its doors for business. It seems like they like the whole beige/green color scheme. I a’int hatin’.

Probably the only other thing you can expect from free (anything) tours- coffee and baked goods. I think I drank about half of that coffee urn. Impressive I know, but not as impressive as the baked goods which went so fast, you would have thought Vin Diesel and Paul Walker were in attendence

Here is the entry-way where the tours of Friendly City began. In total, I would say there were 5-6 depending on the length of the tour and how many questions were asked. The first one I went on was about 25 minutes but they became shorter. The man in the upper right corner, in addition to killing that ‘stache, was the main tour guide and really just a nice guy.

Here we have some JMU students (wearing yellow- cut him some slack, it was 10 am on a Saturday I imagine most other JMU students were face down in their pillow, yard, or jail cell). We talked for a long time and their friends are looking forward very much to the opening of Friendly City. Aren’t we all. Except maybe for the young lady in the corner who appears to be having a rough morning.

Where’s Waldo- I mean Mike Davis? Prof took some valuable time out of his schedule to stop by so I had to grab a picture as he was departing from his own tour.

Look at the size of this tour!!! I mean someone call the fire marshall!!! In all seriousness, there was a great turnout from the Harrisonburg community to visit Friendly City. Overall, I would say there were no less than 75 individual who took tours that day, which is great for us, and for them.

All things considered, we had a wonderful time at Friendly City Food Co-op which opens its doors as a full scale grocery store in June. If you are here next semester, come check them out and I bet you these walls will be filled with fresh, local, produce, dairy, and meats.

The man in the background in the video gave me some good advice. Pan slow so they can get the whole view. Slower. Is there audio? Explain what you’re seeing. Alright guy I gotcha if you haven’t noticed I’m using my iPhone here I’m not Martin Scorsese. He was very helpful in detailing future plans for the Co-op, helping others and drinking and eating for free like the rest of us. All in all, it was a good day and come on down when the shelves are full this June!!!

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Vegan/vegetarian/ovo-vegitarian wtf?!?!?!? is going on here

So in my last post, I took a look at an article that was published by a vegan organization of some kind. I took the time to critique their article because I thought they were missing the BIG PCTURE of the food industry. Sure, it would be wonderful if everyone did not eat red meat, fish, poultry, or swine in the diet but this is what is often referred to as a “pipe dream” aka it will never happen.

side note- other things from our generation that fall under the category of “pipe dream” include: putting man/living on the moon, teleportation, and the male/female ratio at JMU will reach 1:1. These things will just not happen.

When I spoke to my sister the other afternoon she mentioned that she has switched to a vegetarian diet. I asked, “do you eat milk, cheese, or eggs?” to which she replied, “of course I could never go without eggs.” I think this sums up America’s thoughts as it pertains to meat, poultry, etc. You might be able to persuade someone to alter their diet lightly but people are going to eat whatever they choose. This is America, afterall

Later in our conversation, I insinuated that she was actually NOT a vegetarian. We then discussed the ridiculous categorizations that I have found within the vegetarian diet.

Now, I am not one to gloat, but I was totally right about her non-vegitarian diet. Take that, Nancy- who most likely wont even read this. But look at all of those options!!!

I mean seriously, vegans/vegetarians draw a definite stripe in the sand when it come to what you can and cannot eat. I guess division amongst this group is important but it demonstrates my point perfectly. If there is going to be this much division amongst a group that is dedicated to eating little or no animal based products, there is no way Joe Shmoe from Green Bay, Wisconsin is going to become a lacto-ovo vegetarian at the snap of someone’s fingers.

It looks as if I am a a flexitarian (semi-vegitarian) and my sister is a lacto-ovo vegetarian because she eats those friggin eggs from time to time.

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“Greener” Eggs and Ham?

Awesome title. I am so jealous I did not think of this for my blog title but like I have said before, haters are gonna hate and slaters are gonna slate. Kudos to whoever came up with that title, I am officially jealous.

Now on to official business and away from The Max.

F.Y.I. this might take over 1,000 words.

Here is an online article from an organization devoted to animal rights. Here they have posted an article about the myths or fallacies of “organic” and locally raised foods and also, to the detriment of their argument, the unintentional pitfalls of buying fresh and local foods (I will get into that in about 300 words, so strap in).

The article, at least the first third is well intentioned and brings up some important points about the rights of animals and the importance of the environment. Their method of doing this, however, attacks the rhetoric of so-called locavores as well as their diet. Despite the overall thesis of the 4,000-words-too-long-piece which seems to be “EVERYONE MUST BE VEGAN- NO MORE MEAT!!!” there are some good things to think about.

One of the first arguments is that all meat/fish “product” (including fats in oils, makeup, etc) eaters/supporters, despite their best intentions in supporting local farmers, still ignore the plight of the animals which are slaughtered. The piece even opens up with a quote from none other than Joel Salatin, a man I wrote about earlier in the semester. Essentially in an interview, Mr. Salatin was asked if he had ever considered the possibility of being a vegetarian and he says, “it never crossed my mind.”

They go on to argue that a dietary change (you guessed it, to vegetarian or vegan diets) is even a better choice (environmentally) over buying fresh and local and that the distance food travels does not really have an impact on carbon emissions, and greenhouse gases, etc.

I thought Glenn Beck would now be appropriate because $h!t is about to get a little far fetched

About 1/3 of the way through the article, the authors begin to make pretty ridiculous arguments against locally grown food. For example, did you know that people who buy locally raised meats and produce do not continue this practice by purchasing locally made, or homemade clothes??? Also, the rhetoric of “local” instills a mindset of the consumer that is anti-immigrant and bolsters a mindset of All-American aka Not-Foreign??? And finally, the rhetoric of “localism” unknowingly suggests there should be a regression of women’s values and worth because proponents are suggesting that our society should return to the glory days of men tilling the fields and women making meaningful, wholesome home cooked meals in the kitchen.

MY REBUTTAL and ARGUMENT AGAINST

First, this article is asking too much of Americans. I mean, I am only asking in this blog that people buy their food items locally at farmers markets, local butchers, and eventually, Friendly City Food Co-op when it opens its door in June.

Americans barely exercise anymore and our lives have been made so easy by a plethora of technologies. Don’t want to walk to your friend’s house? Here is a car. Don’t want to go up stairs? Here is an escalator/elevator. Don’t want to WALK THROUGH THE AIRPORT? Here is a moving walk/stand-way. Don’t want to push mow your lawn? Here is a John Deere with sick turning radius and mowing performance. I could go on but maybe more importantly, American’s want their food to be easy and readily available. I think the success of fast food has more than proved this.

As for the arguments put forth about the anti-women, anti-immigrant/ pro-America rhetoric, I would hope that anyone who read these could see the illogical nature of this argument. Localism is rather a push against large scale, corporate food producers. There is nothing sexist or racist about the movement.

As for the clothing argument, I mean come on. If I had to make my own clothes, we might as well revert back to 200 years ago when young boys and men tilled the land and women cooked/sewed, no one went to high school, cholera and dysentery ran wild… (or is that the Oregon Trail?)

 

Regardless, while their intentions may be in the right place, no way am I (or anyone else I know) walking around in homemade hemp and burlap shirts and pants all day thank-you-very-much.

So yes, buying “local” foods may not be as nobel as a cause as veganism, but I don’t think it is my place to tell anyone to not eat any meat. While a vegan diet is considerably more environmentally friendly than any other alternative diet with limited or no meat intake, there is NO WAY a culture shift such as the one the authors suggest will occur.

I feel that what I can do, however is educate people on why the CAFO/factory farm method of supplying our meats is not sustainable- and that is really about it. You’re not going to tell the average American to stop eating meat, but you may persuade them to buy local based on a plethora of reasons.

Final note(s): This argument placed forward does not even attack CAFOs or factory farms, which I found interesting.

It would be like if my doctor told me I have strep throat as well as a slow attacking, devastating bacteria that is incurable and will shorten my lifespan significantly. He then writes me a prescription for my strep throat and ignores the bigger issue as I continue to deteriorate.

Also, this is merely a response to arguments put forth by authors of a biased organization (who isn’t biased, anyway) and I certainly do not mean to bash anyone who is a vegan or even makes their own clothing. As a wise person once said, “to each, his own.” My hope is that people realize that while this adage may be true, it does not apply to our dominant system of food production.

Under 1,000 words FTW!

 

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Response to “locavores” from the NYT

You have to love the wonderful people at the New York Times. Their columnists are sooooooooooo right about everythingggggggg (I hope you can sense my sarcasm). I’m about to wax on for quiteee a bit so strap in.

All of my bias aside, this article from last February which counters the argument for locally grown foods and home-grown foods is persuasive. It is persuasive- but for the wrong reasons.

I will highlight or paraphrase for you some of the author’s arguments and break them down with my counter in italics:

  • It occasionally snows a lot above the Mason Dixon line so growing food locally is not always possible during the winter months (I hope you all were sitting down when you read that… I guess this reporter has never heard of canning vegetables. Also, no one said we had to automatically change our veggie/fruit culture to that of the Neolithic period. The biggest problem that I see with our food culture is the annihilation of soil and grasslands due to the rearing of animals in CAFOs).
  • VERSUS                 
  • “Locavores” (people who are die-hard-locally-grown-buyers) are snobbish/too high-brow to eat “a Chilean grape served next to them” and their wine is usually shipped in from places very far away. (First of all, is this just an opinion? I didn’t see any poll or survey results so I am guessing this reporter is basing this off what he has seen personally. Damon Darlin, writing out of San Francisco, quite possibly the most high-brown place on earth probably sees this a lot. Come visit Harrisonburg, man. We don’t bite- we quietly go about our business buying locally raised food and don’t give an eff where our wine comes from. I am hoping you see that I generalized San Fran and Damon here similarly to the way Damon generalizes so-called “locavores.”) btw most of San Francisco does have it’s head up it own a$$
  • Do-it-yourself gardening is often more expensive given the cost for soil, seeds, fertilizer, insect repellant than visiting your local farmers market to get produce (Okay, I think Damon just made a point for visiting the farmers market, DAMN. But he did slap my lettuce, peppers, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, and fresh herbs back at home right in the face. My wonderful mom/garden-caretaker recently participated in a local poll of my own. I asked her, how does growing our own vegetables and herbs compare in price as well as convenience to buying at any kind of market. She said in terms of price, it was cheaper to grow our own produce especially when you consider the herbs/spices and the intense canning that occurs each year. In terms of ease, she said it was a 1 out of 10. She only has to occasionally water the herbs and veggies and loves even more the convenience of walking outside and picking your own food to eat).
  • “As a sustainable trend, localism bears at least some resemblance to Mao Tse-tung’s Great Leap Forward. In the late 1950s, Mao decreed that steel production be localized in backyard steel furnaces. Villagers began melting down pots and pans and creating their own steel, which amounted to low-quality and largely useless pig iron… It was a bad idea that dragged down the nation’s productivity and played a role in widespread famine.” (Pump your breaks, Damon. I would hope that anyone who reads this does not equivocate growing their own fruits/vegetables in their backyard cheaply and efficiently to the Chinese melting down random metals to create some kind of Franken-steel over 60 years ago. These events have NOTHING to do with one another other than an author’s belief that homemade/homegrown produce is “low-quality” and “largely useless.” Reading the article, I don’t know what other point the author is trying to make other than this, do you?)
  • Localism will not feed the entire country for the entire year. (I think that finallywe have come to an agreeance. Someone please make a call to Fred Durst. There is no way that farmers in the north can sustain their local needs during brutal winters, but we can all take baby steps. Buy local meats and produce when you can, stock up, can whatever you are able to, and we can all chip in to reduce our long term impact on our wallets, our health, and the environment).

The article actually ends with a paragraph and final note that actually hits an important point that the article SHOULD HAVE ADDRESSED. When briefly mentioning factory farms, the author notes that problems with this method “may be a case of a manufacturing system that has grown too fast or too large to be managed well… Somewhere, there is a happy medium.” Why devote an entire article to semi-bashing local growers and it’s sustainability/feasibility when you’re going to offer up this food for thought at the end? Why not devote an entire article to this “happy medium” rather than making unsubstantiated claims, unequivocal historical parallels and snarky comments about local growers and eaters?

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King Corn

There is another documentary that is (somewhat) worth watching. King Corn, which is available for free on Netflix, details two men’s journey to plant one acre of corn.

Compared to other documentaries, it is slow and probably 20 minutes too long. I did, however, take notes during the movie and found out some pretty fascinating things…

  • a real change in agriculture took place in 1973 when this idiot Earl Butz, declared that in terms of food production, we needed a “change of culture… we want food… an 180 degree turn to expansion… and it makes sense.” Earl sounds more like an ass to me, but I have the wonderful benefit of eagle-like (hind)sight
  • prior to 1973, no one ate High Fructose Corn Syrup becasue it was so expensive (AHEM-COUGH-COUGH Earl friggin Butz) and by the end of the 1980’s HFCS had taken over 50% of the market
  • the government used to subsidize farms based on supply and demand so they could scale down/up as needed… Now we pay farmers to grossly overproduce corn
  • it takes only 18 minutes to plant an acre of corn (31,000 seeds)
  • the corn we grow is INDUSTRIALIZED… it has been bred to live in close proximity and must be treated before being actually edible
  • of one acre of corn, 1/2 is fed to animals, and 32% is devoted either to export or to science/ethanol… we eat the rest (~18%?)
  • I thought this demanded the caps/bold/italics-face type:  LIVESTOCK CONSUME 70% OF THE ANTIBIOTICS IN THE US
  • 100,000 cattle produce as much waste as a city of 1.7 million people

One of the most intresting ines in the documenary came when a farmer was describing how terrible his corn was. The corn that we all see (if you ever drive, or most likely fly) in the middle of the country is not really edible. The farmer, when being interviewed says something along the lines of:

the irony of mass produced agriculture and in this case commodity corn, is that a family farmer can no longer feed himself off his own produce. Another farmer when asked how his corn tasted said simply, “it’s crap.”

Here is a chart which details just how ridiculous our corn production is. Now, I am terrible with math but it looks like we went from producing just over 255,000 THOUSAND METRIC TONS of corn in 03/04. The following year, we produced nearly 300,000 THOUSAND METRIC TONS in 04/05.

1 metric ton=1000 kg=2,200 lbs (trust me, I had to look up a metric ton). By my 10th grade math level calculations, that means in a one year span, the US produced approximately (pause for math)

45,000 metric tons x 1000 metric tons= 45,000,000 metric tons which in pounds, is approximately 99,000,000,000 lbs more in just one YEAR!

Should this be the goal of our food production in America? Do we really want to literally become a corn husk and just turn our whole food supply into a big factory? It seems as though we already have but based on all of the science behind the environment, soils, animal health, and human health, it seems like there may some healthy opposition in the years ahead.

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Factory Farm vs Family Farm

Here is a nice breakdown of the issues pertaining to health, antibiotics, environment, animal waste, soils, hormones, genetics, fuel, transportation, animal welfare, and employee working conditions between family/small scale and factory farms.

This is the breakdown of everything I could really wish to put into a blog post, so kudos to the fine people over beyondfactoryfarming.org for their assistance in the creation of this blog post. Although this appears to be a Canadian website, the figures and issues still apply to our situation domestically.

Since it is a Canadian website, go ahead and drop the gloves and get right to the fisticuffs

The most intriguing things to examine on this particular website included the genetic manipulation of animals on factory farms. Animals are genetically modified so they appear, develop, and eventually taste the same as the rest of their cow/swine/poultry brethren.

Check out the whole website. You may be surprised at how unsustainable factory farms continue to be but also how beneficial small-scale and family farms can be to their surrounding communities

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