As I have written about before, the simplest way to support a healthy food system is to eat food grown by sustainable farmers or growers. This means buying from them and supporting them to keep them in business.
Sustainable farming not only improves an individual’s health, but also the health of our planet and even the economic health of a local community. What exactly is sustainable agriculture?
A simple definition comes from one of the preeminent organizations in the field, the University of California’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.
“Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals–environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.” For them, this means meeting the needs of the present without comprising the needs of future generations and stewardship of natural and human resources.
A great place to start is to think about what foods are in season, and where certain foods are grown. Whenever possible, eat seasonally and locally, like our ancestors did, by eating fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season in your area or region. Locally grown, seasonal food doesn’t have to be transported as far as nationally or internationally grown food, so it cuts down on gas emissions, especially food that is transported by air, which releases tons of global warming emissions.
The great part is that they list every state and seasonal availability. A search on this tool found that even for the state of Wisconsin, where there is no winter produce available, there is produce available from neighboring states such as apples, carrots, lettuces, and more from Iowa and Minnesota.
One of the easiest ways to eat seasonally is to shop at a local farmers’ market. There are over 4,900 farmers’ markets in the United States, and you can find your local farmers’ market via several web sites including the USDA site, or at Local Harvest.
While it might not be possible for everyone to directly buy at a farm or farm stand, or farmers’ market year-round, you can help support a sustainable food system when you shop at your local supermarket. Ask for the kinds of fresh food that you want. Ask where your food is grown, who grew it, and when and how it was grown. Look for “Buy Local” campaigns and signs at your local supermarket, showing that the food was made in your region or state.
For those lucky enough to live in an area with farms and farm trails, go to them and take your children to teach them where their food comes from. Initiate a farm day at your school, or invite a farmer to talk at your school or community organization.
You can also join American Farmland Trust’s “No Farms No Food” campaign and support their work in preserving farmland and local food.