My, in a generation how much has changed in how individuals in the G8/Western World acquire their food. Prior to the end of WWII, circa 1945; the way our grandparents and great grandparents sourced and consumed food was very different to today. Starting with the industrial revolution, in the late 19th century; there began a change in agricultural production. Processes with mechanized, operations expanded to a large scale and were centralized much like modern white collar business. This process of mechanization crept in, but post 1945 several factors lead to an explosion in large scale agriculture.
During both world wars, there were many devices and products invented by militaries on both sides of the conflict. Post 1945, specifically in North American markets; we saw many of these products modified and adopted for use in civilian life. Of note to agriculture was the large scale use of pesticides, specifically DDT. Along with the boom of large agricultural -business, chemicals were now for the first time being introduced into food production on a large scale. Furthermore, with a post war baby boom and heavy government subsidizes for meat production. Food production spiked and prices fell, making meat in particular something everyone could afford almost on a daily basis.
This was in sharp contrast to pre-world war time, when meat was an expensive commodity that generally speaking was only afforded by the rich and occasionally by common folk. Even to speak of how food was produced pre-war era time, it was a different type of production. There was significantly less mechanization of process, smaller farms, more workers employed and actual product travelled a significantly smaller distant to reach a table for consumption. Also, in terms of diversity of available product compared to today it was a huge difference. That is not to say that, today’s availability of diverse products is wrong from a nutritional point of view. However, I feel it is important to consider factors that went in to produce an item out of season: for example water use, fertilizer, manpower, transport means, use of oil.
As the human population continues to increase, and stretch the already fragile system we rely on for food production, it is time to look in our backyard. We need to identify our natural resources, weather patterns and native fauna and flora. It is one of the most important times, to get back to basics in food production and consumption. Environmental impact concerns aside, sourcing your product as close to home as you can has benefits. Firstly, the nutritional value will be increased. For an apple as an example, to travel a mere 100 kms vs. 1000 kms; and not require to be artificial ripened increases its benefit to your health exponentially. Furthermore, buying locally drives the economy and creates a relationship with your food producer. Knowing where, how and who produced your food you about to consume is an important link. Knowledge is power, being informed allows you to make choices and have peace of mind in what you are investing. Also, you are helping to provide gainful employment for people in your home area: supporting the community, as we use to not so long ago.
Environmentally, buying local creates huge advantages for the world we live in. Firstly, you are simply going to consume fewer resources to obtain a carrot grown in your local farming district versus one on the other side on your country, continent or even world! Depending on the area in which you live and the climate and farming techniques used you will allow to use of less water to produce your food. If you have a close tie or know of your farmer, you can inquire to them what farming techniques they employ. With organic farming techniques you will be part of reducing the impact to other flora and fauna in the area. Also, by buying locally you will help to decrease the demand and dependency on oil/petrol to transport the product to market.
One hundred years ago, what food people could grow and what livestock they could raise, successfully in their geographic region: was what they had to live off. This did not result in poor nutrition, granted the scientific knowledge was not as vast as it is today. However, a rich culinary history was passed from generation to generation of dishes that would meet a family’s notional needs.
I am a firm believer, in the adage: ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. With the industrialization of agriculture; we not only broke the wheel, we throughout the old traditions and replaced it with a new, less efficient model.
My approach for buying locally goes as follows.
1. Is it in season where I live?
2. Can it be successfully grown in my geographic area?
If the item in question is not in season where I live, I do not buy it.
Secondly, if it is in season but cannot be grown in my geographic area, I will only purchase it– IF it was produced in North America.
Aside from that I base my purchases on the following,
- Was it grown in Season in Nova Scotia?
- Was it grown, in Season in Canada?
- Was it grown, in Season, in the USA?
- Was it grown, in Season, in North America (Mexico?)
If a product can not fall into any of those categories, I simply do not purchase it. Also, if the item in question is in season, I question my retailer on why they do not have an acceptable locally produced item for sale.
Remember, Think Local Act Global!!