By Teresa Miller, NCAP Supporter
During this season of thanksgiving, NCAP gives thanks for the farmers, farmworkers, and food advocates who help nourish our communities. Farming and food service represent difficult, demanding industries with slim margins. We’re particularly thankful for those who, despite the pressures to replace human labor with chemical inputs, continue to grow and serve food with an emphasis on human health and environmental sustainability.
Pesticide-free farming offers a host of benefits to consumers and the larger ecological systems they inhabit. Eating organic foods for just a week, for example, can lower the levels of endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic pesticides in the bloodstream by as much as 95 percent. Farmers who use agroecological methods rather than synthetic inputs help preserve topsoil, protect groundwater, and reduce stress on wildlife—including essential pollinators like bees. Local, organic food systems also have a much smaller carbon footprint than conventional industrial farms and their associated large transportation networks.
In order to reap the benefits of small farms and locavore cuisine, though, we have to support them economically. The decisions we make about where and what to buy determine whether a sustainable market will exist for healthier, environmentally friendly food in the long term. Many small farms rely on community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscribers to maintain the necessary levels of financial predictability and economic security to remain in business. Supporting locally sourced restaurants and signing up for a CSA can help your community sustain a vibrant local food system.
In addition to individual consumer choices, it’s important to recognize the larger systemic factors influencing the food system. In the current farming landscape, large, industrial, chemical-dependent enterprises have economic advantages over small-scale endeavors, in part because they’re allowed to externalize the environmental and health costs of their production and transport methods—including the spread of pesticides beyond target crops. Income inequality also affects the extent to which people can exercise choice over their food. As a result, advocacy for structural change remains an essential ingredient in achieving a truly sustainable food system.
However you celebrate and whatever you serve at your table this season, NCAP encourages you to consider the larger story behind your meal. Do you know who grew your food and who harvested it? How did its production affect wildlife and the environment, and how far did it travel to get to you? How might you forge a deeper connection to your local food system through the holidays and in the coming year?
To learn more about the issues facing today’s farmers and food workers, watch NCAP’s video “Living Wage: Perspectives through the Food Supply Chain”: