AID CARES – campaign on organic agriculture: consumer awareness, responsibility and empowerment
Eating, Wendell Berry said in The Pleasures of Eating, is an agricultural act. What we eat, the farmers grow. If it comes from a plant, of course.
Michael Pollan said: “If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.” He advised this for the sake of our health and the health of the planet – social, economic, environmental, and spiritual. It is all connected.
The decline of our food habits will result in the decline of agriculture. Conversely, sustaining healthy food habits will sustain healthy agriculture. We can:
Grow food: All of us can grow at least one edible plant in our homes or spaces near our homes. It doesn’t get any more fresh, local, or organic than that.
Buy local: We can also encourage farmers near us who are first and foremost farming, under circumstances that are often difficult, and especially those who are trying to practice sustainable agriculture through low-external input, crop diversity, natural nourishment of the soil and plants, and non-pesticidal and non-herbicidal management of pests and weeds. You can find locally grown foods at the farmers’ market or join a community supported agriculture. In response to growing demand, grocery stores have also started carrying food from within the county, state or region, and displaying the location. Sources of local food in the US are listed at http://www.localharvest.org.
Avoid packaged food: As people’s food habits move towards eating packaged and highly processed foods, eating will become an industrial act and the more industrial food we eat, the more industries will rise to manufacture, package, advertise and market those edible-food like substances. These industries create pollution and waste, in addition to landlessness, sponsored research, misinformed policy, and disease. Remember, the food industry creates customers for the health industry.
Avoid markets that carry mostly packaged food:
Compare the markets where fresh food is sold to those selling packaged food. Which is more likely to allow you to bring your own bags, thus avoiding plastic bags? In which are you more likely to know the shopkeeper? Which is more likely to allow you to pay later if you are in a tight spot?
Which is more likely to be air-conditioned? Which is more likely to have security staff guarding the entrance, checking the bags that come in and go out, and deciding who is allowed in the shop? Which is more likely to send advertisements?
Local or organic? With consumer support, a local farmer may move towards sustainable, low-external input and non-toxic agricultural methods. But a Big Organic farm thousand of miles away has no interest in any local community. It is enough for them if a small percentage of people distributed throughout the country buys their products, separating the organic haves and have-nots. More frightening is that the Big Organic companies can drive out the smaller, local players who are more likely to take a holistic view of organic food, not limited to “absence of pesticides” but rather regional biodiversity, intercropping, and working conditions that allow the workers to have a share in what they produce.
We need local and organic. With community solidarity, organic can be viable for more local farmers and also affordable for more local consumers.