The contradictory information about food and food systems makes my head spin. What is a conscientious consumer to do to ensure your food is safe, grown in environmentally sustainable and humane systems, and provides fair trade profits. Grocery store olive oil is a mix of what not; the Amazon forest is being cut to grow soy, and the abuse of children in cocoa plantations is well documented. Vegans think cattle are the scourge of the earth, but don’t think about the carbon foot print of that veggie burger processed to bleed like beef. More than my high fat diet, this stuff raises my blood pressure.
The solution is simple. Know your farmer. We are so lucky to be in a rural area where you
can actually drive past that steer, rub the dirt off the carrots, and ask how the bees survived the winter. Buying local solves 90% of your food dilemmas. (As for coffee, chocolate, and bananas, use the fair trade label as your guide.)
Buying local solves another problem. They say all politics are local and certainly the politics of water protection, the politics of climate change, and the politics of social justice are local. So vote first with your food dollars. We are a capitalist economy and the consumer holds power. Think about what made McDonald’s ask their egg producers to supply cage-free eggs – consumer demand.
Some of the 581 dairy farmers who went out of business is 2019 are grazing beef on their land. Direct to consumer sales can make that a viable option for them. Direct sales can take them out of world competition, but not all farmers are marketers and finding and serving consumers can take a lot of time.
The SLO Farmers Co-op helps farmers market directly to consumers and consumers to know their farmer and their food. This small group aggregates and sells in varying quantities for different sized households. They operate in the hyper-local market of northeast Wisconsin. Capturing just a small portion of the food dollar could greatly improve the future for small farms, our environment, and our communities. All politics is local, and the greatest impact you can have is to vote with your dollars. Support your local farmers and all your local businesses.