The Choice is Yours
Every day you are able to make choices about what goes into your body or onto your body: choices about what products you use in your household and what products you use in your inner environment. There is no more profound impact on the body or the greater environment, however, than what you are eating.
Return to Regenerative Farming
In a 2013 report, the UN states the urgent need to return to regenerative farming practices and abandon large scale, chemically-intensive, and highly-pollutive agriculture to save our planet and to end hunger. This also means less reliance on large-scale organic growing systems and a return to small-scale production. They state,
“The world needs a paradigm shift in agricultural development: from a “green revolution” to an “ecological intensification” approach. This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional monoculture-based and high external-input-dependent industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers. We need to move from a linear to a holistic approach in agriculture management, which recognizes that a farmer is not only a producer of agriculture goods, but also a manager of an agro-ecological system that provides quite a number of public goods and services (e.g. water, soil, landscape, energy, biodiversity, and recreation).”
The Importance of Sustainability – Especially in Times of Uncertainty
It has become more obvious over the past year, as we saw empty grocery store shelves across the country, how imperative it is to have a short-distance food chain. The globalization and development of mass-scale food production is not only dangerous to the world’s ecosystem in terms of pollution and carbon footprint, but is also shaky in terms of sustainability and resilience in times of great uncertainty and change like the global pandemic.
“Victory Gardens,” first made popular in WWI and WWII, have seen a comeback, as consumers realize the instability of the global food chain. There is nothing more meaningful in terms of nutritional value and control over what goes on your food or what goes in it than when you grow and make your own foods. Growing your own food also makes a large positive impact on your local ecosystem: providing biodiversity, landscape, and accessible plants for pollinators (valuable insects like bees).
Local, Organic, Chemical-free Food
If you are unable to grow your own, actively seek out local organic, chemical-free, and sustainable growers. We are blessed to have many farms and small-scale farms locally that provide organic, chemical-free produce, grass-fed and free-range meats and poultry.
We are also privileged to have the world-renowned Rodale Institute right here in Berks County. Rodale was started by “The Father of Organic Farming,” J.I. Rodale, and continues these traditions of organic and sustainable agriculture. They teach local backyard growers, as well as larger scale farmers, how to grow produce and raise animals in a sustainable and organic manner. They are also a beacon for published research on sustainable and organic growing. Rodale’s side-by-side experiments of conventional chemically-intensive growing methods versus organic growing, proves that organic crops have more resilience to extreme weather changes like droughts.
Rodale Institute has also been able to show the following in their research on organic farming, The Farming Systems Trial, which started in 1981 and is the longest-running side-by-side trial of organic and conventional in North America:
- Yields are competitive with conventional yields after a 5-year transition period
- Systems produce yields up to 40% higher in drought
- Methods leach no toxic chemicals into waterways
- Uses 45% less energy
- Releases 40% fewer greenhouse emissions
- Earns 3-6x higher profits for farmers
What is organic growing and why is choosing organic produce and animal products important?
According to the USDA,
“Organic production is not simply the avoidance of conventional chemical inputs, nor is it the substitution of natural inputs for synthetic ones. Organic farmers apply techniques first used thousands of years ago, such as crop rotations and the use of composted animal manures and green manure crops, in ways that are economically sustainable in today’s world. In organic production, overall system health is emphasized, and the interaction of management practices is the primary concern. Organic producers implement a wide range of strategies to develop and maintain biological diversity and replenish soil fertility” (USDA, 2007).
Being Mindful of Our Footprint
My hope is that we will not only start thinking about our own dietary choices and how they affect our own health and internal ecosystems, like the quality and diversity of our microbiomes, but that we will also think about the impact of our food, clothing, cleaning and beauty products, materials we use, etc. on the Earth’s ecosystem. We only have one planet, one Mother Earth who has provided nourishing foods and a delicately balanced ecosystem that we must honor and respect. Sustaining these intricate balances starts with the choices on the ends of our forks.
- UNCTAD.Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late. Online. 18 Sept 2013. https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/ditcted2012d3_en.pdf
- Rodale Institute. Can Organic Feed the World? Online. 14 May 2019. Accessed 19 Apr 2021. https://rodaleinstitute.org/blog/can-organic-feed-the-world/
- Rodale Institute. Organic vs Conventional Farming. Online. Accessed 19 Apr 2021. https://rodaleinstitute.org/why-organic/organic-basics/organic-vs-conventional/