Sustainable food comes from practices of sustainable agriculture which is all part of the sustainable living model. We have covered some of the components of sustainable living in previous blog articles and today will be concentrating on just sustainable food and sustainable agriculture.
Sustainable Food From Sustainable Agriculture Practices
Sustainable agriculture is a way of producing food that takes into consideration natural ecological systems, efficient use of natural resources, reduced energy use, practices that provide food that does not damage human health or the environment, that supports local economy, and that has a positive long-term effect on communities. According to the University of California’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program sustainable agriculture is “the stewardship of both natural and human resources” (http://homeguides.sfgate.com/sustainable-food-mean-79598.html). When Congress passed the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990, it defined sustainable agriculture as a system of using production practices in growing plants and animals for food and fiber that enhances natural resources. Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Sustainability Director of Mars Incorporated sums it all up by stating, “The necessity of industry collaboration is clear as we consider the inherent complexity of managing biology-based production systems. That’s why Mars has joined the Sustainable Food Lab.” (http://www.sustainablefoodlab.org/). If you think integrating these type of practices sounds like a tall order, check out some of the sources listed at the end of this article to see what many organizations are already doing to move sustainable agriculture forward and how you can get involved and start using sustainable food for yourself and your family.
Sustainable Agriculture versus Industrial Agriculture or Factory Farming
Most of the food consumed by us today is produced with industrial agricultural practices or through factory farming. Sustainable agriculture practices include crop rotation for controlling disease and pests, using compost and other natural nitrogen sources, soil conservation, and protection of clean water and air resources. Sustainable agriculture works with nature instead of against it which allows for the production of healthier foods, reduction of pollution, reduced damage to the environment including climate change, and a reduction in depletion of natural resources. Using these types of practices to produce sustainable food also involves a movement from consuming processed foods to consuming fresh, local meat, fruits and vegetables in season. This can be incorporated in a variety of ways from supporting farmer’s markets and joining CSAs to getting involved with a community garden, starting a rooftop or window box garden, or having your own home garden. Another interesting idea that has come forward is using vertical farming in which tower-like greenhouses or vertical inclines are used for food production rather than large industrial plants or factories.
With industrial or factory farming practices, the goal is to produce more quantity of food rather than quality food. The long-term effects of these practices on the environment, natural resources and the community are not a priority consideration. You are no doubt familiar with the treatment and conditions that exist for animals in factory farm situations and how unsanitary and inhumane they can be. Sustainable farming practices in regards to animals ensure they are provided for with non-chemically grown feed, that they are allowed access to conditions that support their natural behavior (ie. – chickens have room to peck the ground), and there is not an overpopulation of animals in the space available. Whereas industrial agriculture uses such practices as pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and petroleum based fertilizers, sustainable agriculture uses organic practices to replace these.
How You Can Get Involved with Sustainable Food
There are ways you can get involved with supporting and providing sustainable food for yourself and your family right now without having to wait for sustainable agriculture practices to become the mainstream. One really good reason to do this is that food related illnesses affect 325,000 people yearly to the point that they require hospitalization. This is according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (http://gracelinks.org/media/pdf/three_easy_steps_to_sustainability_ho_20090922.pdf). Then of course there are the added benefits of reducing your carbon footprint, reducing damage to the earth and its environment, supporting your local economy, supporting humane treatment of animals raised for food, and preserving natural resources. Here are some ways we can all get involved with sustainable food now.
1. Get the Facts About Your Food – Most of us shop around, check out reviews and collect a lot of information before making a purchase for something like a car or a new entertainment system. Is the food you eat any less important? Start asking questions about where the food you buy comes from, read labels to see what is in it, find out what type of farming practices were involved in the production, then pick one food you normally buy at your grocery store and make the decision to only buy that one food out of the organic section or from a local organic farmer. As you start asking questions and making changes in your food buying habits, you not only educate yourself and start yourself towards sustainable food consumption, but also model this for others in your community and possibly get other consumers as well as businesses to start thinking about these issues and making it a priority.
2. Join in Meatless Monday – You may have heard of the Meatless Monday movement (www.MeatlessMonday.com). This movement encourages people to pick one day a week to commit to having meals that contain no meat. In this country the average person eats about 8.4 ounces of meat a day whereas the recommended daily allowance is 5.5 ounces (http://gracelinks.org/media/pdf/ten_steps_to_eating_sustainable_ho_20090416.pdf).The idea behind eating less meat is that it is not only healthier for you, but also has a positive environmental effect due to the practices utilized in producing the meat sources we currently have the most access to. If you are a meat eater, start finding local sources of meat and animal produced food products or at least find sources that are grass fed and humanely treated animals. For example, personally after reading about battery hens and seeing pictures of them, I absolutely cannot enjoy eating an egg that did not come from a cage-free hen.
3. Supplement Your Diet for Extra Nutrition – Taking whole food supplements can help get you the most nutrition out of the food you eat, help stretch your food budget, and provide the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, fatty acids and proteins you need to stay healthy. For example, taking digestive enzymes helps you absorb more nutrients from the food you eat. Then probiotics like acidophilus and bifidus help your body process and digest the foods you eat and keep them moving through the digestive system. The AFA bluegreen algae we recommend definitely follows sustainable living practices and is a sustainable food source. It comes from a unique eco-system in southern Oregon, fed by pure lake and mountain spring waters and is nourished by the rich mineral content of the volcanic soil found there. This wild bluegreen algae is abundant, edible and sustainable. Once harvested it regenerates itself quickly, no pesticides are needed, it must have pure water to live and grow so pure water is a must and it is a basic whole food nutrition source. This algae is a simple, full-spectrum, whole food nutrition straight from nature, harvested and packaged in accordance with sustainable living practices.
Don’t wait around for sustainable food sources to come to you. Get proactive about what you eat and start finding ways to engage in sustainable living now. Not only will your body thank you, but so will the planet and future generations.
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