Thursday, April 24, 2014

Selected Readings on Food, Agriculture and the Environment

The following are responses and summaries of various readings related to Food, Agriculture and the Environment. 

The Eco-Foods Guide: What Does IPM Mean?
IPM, integrated pest management, is a middle ground between organic and conventional agriculture.  IPM uses complex planning and processes that are biologically, chemically, and culturally different than organic and conventional growing.  IPM attempts to rid crop fields of pests, only using chemicals as a last resort.  IPM is a multidisciplinary approach involving agronomy, pathology, entomology, weed science, agricultural economics, and much more.  Much of the work involved in IPM is in planning: preparing for the coming pests and making attempts to prevent their inhabitation.  A commonly used mechanic is the use of insect pheromones to confuse a population.  The pheromones can distract the insects enough to keep them from destroying a harvest.  Also, with using “bait” crops and inserting predator bugs into a field, an even greater reduction of chemical use is achieved.  Though IPM seems to preach the reduction of pesticide use, it seems that often its practitioners merely try to limit the negative effects of its use such as the use of planting vegetation along stream banks to prevent runoff.

Shopping Alternatives
Most people go grocery shopping more than once per week.  Ignore the on-sale items and the store circulars while heading right for the organics section.  Always try to buy local and buy food which was produced with the environment in mind.  Try to avoid all the chemicals and additives in processed foods and look for the eco-labels.  The big grocer will not always have the organics needed, so a venture to the local health food store could be in order.  The people working at these small, local shops will usually be more knowledgeable and friendlier too.  However, the farmer’s market is still probably the best way to support local agriculture and learn the story of the food.  The markets often allow the customer to converse with the person responsible for the food itself and from him can be learned the practices for its growth and uses for it in the kitchen.
If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em
CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, is perhaps the best way to ensure the safety of one’s food while at the same time supporting your local agriculture.  It works by using a membership structure.  A person pays a set fee to a farm, which will allow them a share of the harvest.  Built in to that share is the inherent risk that the crop may fail.  In this way the farmer is not the only one at risk economically for his work.  But even better is the reward that taking home pounds of freshly grown vegetables and fruits have each week.  Some farms may require work days in the field while some others may even deliver the food for you, saving a trip out to the country.
Who’s Got Time to Cook
Eating an eco-friendly diet can be difficult when on the move.  Fast food is everywhere, while organics are generally reserved only for the kitchen or the local farmer’s market café.  With the founding of the Chef’s Collaborative in 1993 more and more restaurants are becoming eco-friendly.  These are not the fast food chains we are all familiar with, but the local, sit-down restaurants.  They’ve initiated a movement away from the processed, industrial, conventional foods in an effort to support the locally grown and the environmentally friendly.  It can be difficult to determine if a restaurant is using the food you’d prefer, so it’s always best to ask.  There are numerous organic friendly fast food diners popping up around the country though in conjunction with the Chef’s Collaborative.  It is requisite to always make it known that you’re glad a certain restaurant offers eco-foods, otherwise what difference will they know.
Your Kids Will Thank You…, When They’re Older, Maybe
Fast-food marketing is quite in your face from birth until death now days.  Companies sponsor schools, events, sports teams, and even the local library’s reading program.  It can be difficult for children to understand exactly what it is that’s being fed to them through these advertising measures, especially with the chains trying to break in to the school cafeterias.  After all, the soft drink and vending companies have been in many schools for the last decade or more.  Schools with tight budgets can feel they have no other choice than to let in the anti-nutritional devils.  The best way to prevent this, or change it should it already be the case, is by going to the school’s administrators and demanding organic foods be made available.
Food For Thought
Our decisions on what food we purchase and consume do have a direct impact on the future.  Should we purchase that rBGH milk our money is feeding the machine of the industry.  The only way to get our message across that we do not approve, and therefore institute change, is to not purchase such products; even better, purchase products that promote what we want: sustainable, safe agriculture.  We need to begin looking at the earth as a being again instead of a machine in the cog of life.

Local Harvest offers a listing of hundreds of community supported farms and describes the advantages for both the farmer and the consumer.  They describe the idea of the shared risk between the farmer and the consumer.  Of special importance, they say, is that the product be locally grown even offering, on their home page, the ability to search by city and state.  A search for Norman immediately pulled up the Rose-Hip Farm, Native Roots, Rock Creek Vineyard, and the Farmers Market among many others. Many of them offer pictures, along with descriptions of the farms, their practices, and their products.  There is even the ability to rate and review farms for quality.  The local harvest blog, updated daily, includes many topics of discussion in the organics community: top of the list tonight was recent discussion about the Ag Census.

Readings May Originate from the Following:
Cynthia Barstow.   The Eco-Foods Guide.
Christopher Cook.  Diet for a Dead Planet.
Richard Manning.  Against the Grain.
Vandana Shiva.     Stolen Harvest.
Smith, Jeffery.       Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of Genetically  Modified Foods.

This article originally written May 6th, 2009 for OU IPE 3913 - Food, Agriculture and the Environment. 

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