I am here sitting in my local café, reading the daily newspapers and trying to come up with my next article topic, and it hit me, why not write about being a food activist in a world on the brink of recession; where the old prices is dropping faster than expected and millions of people are being let go, so too are the downsizing of many jobs around the world, many people have found themselves unemployed and do not know how to start over or where to begin again.
The uncertainty of the world and their future are at stake, many have loans to pay back, children to send to school, children in college, car loans and other major and minor financial needs, that most are been taken away from them and they have nothing, and it is out of this necessity that many have decided to go back and cultivate the land, as a way to earn a living and take care of themselves and their loved ones; and it is also out of this phenomenal change which is sweeping across the every country around the world, as many are becoming aware of the importance of agriculture and permaculture, are we seeing more and more individuals, groups and organizations getting involved and becoming activists in food production and agriculture. These activists are working under a different profession, such as an agriculture journalist, culinary students, agriculture lecturer, agriculture field officers, even an agricultural economists and other career opportunities and professions. While I am a freelance food writer and food blogger, I would not literally call myself a food activist, but I am getting there.
Just like many, I often wonder about where my food comes from. I am frustrated by the current food production system in managing of my own country’s food supply, even to mention that I am finding that obtaining food from a reputable, healthy source even difficult than expected, I am not only talking about the supermarket, but also the local farmer’s market and I have a strong desire to see change and the development of a grand sustainable farmer’s market; as well as the overall growth and development of sustainable agriculture industry.
Also too, with the former governments of the past, I have seen food become very political and having an opinion on food was actually leading to a great deal of dissension in relationships with other people, groups, and organizations, which still maybe prevalent today, as our country’s main employer is the government, and agriculture is struggling and it is like an unwinding long road, with lots of red tapes and potholes, but yet there is still hope at the end of the road, through activism, persistence, and education, we really can make a difference and change the way our food is produced for the common good.
Being a food activist is not easy, but it’s worth the effort. Here’s why:
What is a food activist?
A food activist is someone who cares about where our food comes from and who makes a conscientious effort to support local and sustainable agriculture whether it be to become an actual sustainable farmer or food producer, or to be a consumer of sustainable products. A food activist also becomes involved in some way with education and dissemination of information about sustainable living and food to the public and wider communities.
Why should we care where our food comes from, and what difference does it make being a food activist?
The loss of local food production has been devastating. Diminished food production causes the necessity for our food to travel lengthy distances over many days or weeks to reach your dinner table. The result of this travel and toxin exposure is the loss of nutritional density and flavor. Distance traveled by our food also contributes to wastes of energy that can only be maintained by government subsidies and the acquisition of cheaper oil which is dictated by foreign policy; for which agribusiness giants, food manufacturers, processors, and related corporations, lobbyists, special interest groups, and even the government all have an interest and gain in this policy that the general public. All are pushing and making legal unethical ideals, practices, regulations, and laws in exchange for power and profit and may consider industrial farming than local farming, for there are many dangers to industrial farming, such as:
- The presence of this type of toxic farming will not only led to the destruction of our soil, but also our water, and air.
- Pesticides sprayed on commercial crops are then fed to animals. This causes health problems for the animals and you when you eat the meat and other products from these animals.
- The use of medications and antibiotics in animal production is heavy and has contributed to resistant-strain bacteria. We are also finding that increasing amounts of our foods contain chemicals, preservatives, stabilizers, and toxins which cause further damage to our health and the environment.
- Factory farms, which we do not have much of here in the Caribbean, but can be found in other countries across the globe like the United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK), also play a major part in contributing greatly to the overall human-caused component of climate change occurring.
The only ones who loses out in the conventional, industrial food system are the environment, which due to the input of massive toxic chemicals, mismanagement of resources, and the accumulation of concentrated animal wastes and a huge loss of our topsoil. Even the farmers are at a great loss too, as less are paid to the local farmers and the majority is paid to marketers, processors, and input suppliers.
Not forgetting that the consumer (general public) also losses out, because the food we consume is now developed and grown for transportation and shelf life rather than for nutrition or taste, we lose control of how food is produced because we no longer have a relationship with the farmers who produce our food; we experience a loss of countryside, forests, and of farms; and most importantly and significantly of all, our health is profoundly impacted by the mechanism of factory, for-profit, and industrial farming. Our life spans maybe longer, but we are now experiencing degenerative and chronic diseases at a larger and more frequent rate than ever before in history. Our children are also now developing these disorders at younger ages than the previous generation.
The animals in industrial farming, animals are treated in the most inhumane manner and live in ghastly conditions. They are not allowed to behave normally, are exposed to filthy environments, are often subjected to gross abuse and neglect, and by these standards are unable to live happy lives (and sometimes they don’t even get exposed to sunlight). There’s only one question to ask here – Do you really want to support business that makes money in this manner and consume meat coming from animals in these conditions?
What one can do to help out food system?
Eat local food! The biggest criticism people have about sustainable and organic food is that there is no feasible way to feed organic, healthy food to everyone. But if each community started supporting their own local agriculture, food growers, and merchants, we’d find that assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth. The whole point of supporting local efforts to grow and produce food is just that – when you support it, it thrives and feeds its community.
It’s really quite simple, but has become complicated by arcane laws and regulations that were originally put into place to feed massive amounts of people for the cheapest price – and allowing the almighty dollar to be the prevailing factor – which has now completely overtaken our health care and food systems like never before in history. When you place profit over health and well-being, there will always be consequences.
Do research both online and in person, go out and locate local, sustainable farmers and food producers; every community has them, visit the library and your local farmer’s market. Do not mind what most people say by eating healthier is more expensive, which is not always true. Eating healthy can cost more up front, but it doesn’t always have to be incredibly expensive. You can also find economical buys and deals within your local community because the food doesn’t have to travel far to get to you.
Learn to do everything from scratch at home soak or sprout your own grains, sprout, ferment, make yogurt, make lacto-fermented vegetables with whey from your raw milk or homemade yogurt, even make canned foods, jams, jellies, chutney, green seasoning, etc.
Join agricultural groups and organizations and spread the word! Learn about local and national, and even international groups and organizations that place an emphasis on fighting for safe, sustainable food.
Young children can start a school garden and/or the community can get together, form a group and find a vacant lot and turn it into a community garden, or use enough land space adjacent to its community centres.
Start a blog, write articles, or write a book. There is always more room in the world for good writers who can convey their thoughts to others and motivate people through the written word – I am one, such aspiring and emerging writer, and I hope to write a series of books.
If you are an avid reader like me, you can also read books, watch films, and educate yourself on the issues. One can also learn about the laws and regulations governing our food, sign petitions.
Today, I say that even thou been a food activist is not an easy job, one has to have passion, determination, drive and strength to keep on, because the journey is long and tedious, but someone got to do it and in the end it’s worth the effort.