A couple of months ago I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Micheal Pollan. The book was on my list for a long time, but I avoided it because I was concerned that it would be too thick, as it were. I had a new baby, after all, and my reading time was somewhat limited. Once I finally worked up the courage I found the book fascinating and engaging. I would describe it as a page-turner about corn and mushrooms.
I learned so much from Pollan. What “organic” really means – and what it can mean. How chemical fertilizers impact the environment and the food we eat. How big agri-business operates. Why it matters whether cows are allowed to graze the range or fed corn on a feedlot. And before I read this book I knew nothing about wild mushrooms, how they live in symbiosis with trees and can’t be cultivated. The politics of what we eat are fascinating, and also very eye-opening.
There was a time when it never occurred to me to wonder where my food came from. 10 years ago I think my only concerns were price and taste. And then I discovered my local farmer’s market and started buying some of my food there. It’s a different experience than visiting your local supermarket, speaking with farmers and eating fresh food. It even compares with the grocery store on price. And the taste, well, there’s no comparison. And then a year or two ago I read The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating by Vancouverites Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, and learned about food miles and the environmental impact of transporting our food an average of 2500 km before it ends up on our plate.
What started with a visit to the farmer’s market has come full circle. I am back at the market regularly these days, cloth bags in hand. I buy my beef and eggs there, my fruit and veggies. They have the best apples and garlic in season, and the best sugar pie pumpkins. And the bread! I see the same people week after week, and month after month, and we recognize each other. I can ask them about their farms, I can get recipes and meal suggestions. I know that the food I’m buying is tastier, better for my family, and better for the whole world.
Many experts suggest that as our climate changes, food security will become a much bigger issue in our world. Growing your own food is one way to address that. But even those of us who have gardens are rarely able to grow most of what we eat. Supporting local agriculture is another important way that we can ensure our own food security, and combat climate change at the same time. So this Christmas, when you’re planning your big meal, consider where the food is coming from. Even a small change can make a big difference.