Food freakout: Do we have a reason to be concerned?

by Lesley on April 1, 2010 · 10 comments

in food

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It’s been a full week of food issues at the Miller casa. I, Lesley, am buried in yogurt related marketing duties for a brand that shall remain nameless (Yellowberry? Nah. Orangeberry? Nope. Redberry? Getting closer….) As a result of my late nights at the office, Jonathan is also up to his neck in food related duties. Mainly, he’s become chef for the week so I can concentrate on getting stuff done. And then, there is the real reason for this post: farm fresh food, my thoughts on seeds, and Jaime Oliver.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse veggie since I’ve talked about my farm box several times now in the last few months. But, will you humor me with one more post? Pretty puhlease?

On Saturday,  before Redberry hell week began, we headed to the Capay Valley with our friends Sam and Sharon to attend a farm tour at Full Belly. The farm holds tours several times a year, and I didn’t like the thought of visiting in August during 100 degree weather. Saturday’s blue skies and breezy air were a perfect excuse to open the sunroof and get out of Sacramento.

What I appreciated the most about our tour was seeing firsthand the people who stand behind the food we eat each week. Full Belly is owned by two couples who have farmed the land since 1985. They are passionate about the work, treat their employees fairly, and believe in natural farming practices. I found many parts of our walk fascinating, but what I enjoyed most was seeing how everything works together in such a miraculous way. Sharon said it best–how could there not be a creator when you see the way He’s crafted the world? The picture above shows just some of the few thousand chickens on Full Belly’s property. The chickens are moved from field to field every week so they can roam and peck, feed and poop. (Resulting in healthy soil, no need for weed killers, and lovely eggs and meat.)

That night, we finally rented Food, Inc. The contrast between our day at the farm, and the images of America’s large scale agriculture and meat packing practices, was striking. Oh sure–the images of nasty meat and chicken coops really turned my stomach the wrong way. But, what worried me the most, was the segment about Monsanto. Monsanto is the leading producer for genetically engineered seeds and “Roundup,” a herbicide used to kill weeds. Interesting that the seeds Monsanto creates grow into plants that are resistant to Roundup. Which basically means farmers can dump Roundup on their plants, killing all the weeds around the crop, but not the crop itself.

Even more intriguing/concerning? Organic farmers like Full Belly suffer as a result of Monsanto having so much control of the seed market. On Tuesday, we received this newsletter from the farm. In it you can read about Monsanto aquirring Seminis (the holder of the Early Girl tomato patent) in 2005. As a result of that purchase, this is the first year Full Belly can’t buy Early Girl tomato seeds because they can no longer find untreated seed. How sad! Early Girls are a staple on many farms. I have to wonder, are we moving towards a future when all seeds are genetically engineered? And, can that possibly be a good thing?

My questions may seem silly to some, or too “green thumb” for others, or just plain liberal. I don’t ask them from a political angle. I ask them simply from a health angle. Why, as we gain new advances in technology, do we abandon a food system that for many years was working just fine? What is wrong with eating food without the preservatives, the additives, and the scientific tinkering?

Not convinced our food system is broken? Rent Food Inc. or check out Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on ABC. It’s a new show about food in America. I think you’ll find it funny, charming, alarming and entertaining. And then, leave me your thoughts.

Mmmmm… I think it’s about time for some processed dessert. Good night!

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10 comments
Lesley
Lesley

Thanks for the link, Lor. More reading to do!

Lori
Lori

Hi Les, I thought about your post when I was planting my little backyard garden last week. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I found this link where Monsanto addresses mail they recieved in response to the movie - I haven't read it yet but it might be interesting: http://www.monsanto.com/foodinc/

Erica
Erica

What a great post Lesley! I rented Food Inc. a little while ago and was shocked to see what is making its way into our food and how little we, as consumers, know about it. Thanks for continuing the dialogue!

Kristin Ritzau
Kristin Ritzau

Yes, the same is true of Monrovia. We can have up to 10 chickens in the city boundaries, no roosters... south of the freeway where it is unincorporated, they can have roosters or whatever the heck they want -- it's county property. We called our city, read the codes (as they are different in each city) and talked to our neighbors. Everyone is on board! There are pics of the coop on my facebook page. That's really surprising about Sacramento!

Kristen
Kristen

I never really checked into it with City Hall but there is a 4-H group here and the leader told me that they are legal. Just no rosters! We have a pretty good neighbor and she gets rewarded too! :)

Lesley
Lesley

Thank you all for your thoughts and feedback (and book suggestions!) Kristin and Kristen, you both have chickens in the Los Angeles area. Are you they legal there? Here it is illegal to have chickens in your backyard but many people still have them illegally. We rent so I can't build a hutch anyway, but I'd like to raise chickens in the future. I still remember collecting eggs at Amie and Do-daddy's neighbors house when we were kids. It was always so much fun! Alysun, I am dying to come to your farm to visit. I hope it works out soon.

Alysun
Alysun

You can come take a tour of our farm anytime. Before marrying a farmer, I gave no thought to what I was eating. Now I think about it a lot. It's good to be informed. Check out the "God Made" diet book. It is very informative and will make you think twice before eating anything processed.

Kristen
Kristen

I watched all three episodes of Food Revolution...laughing, crying and cheering all the way through. Love it! thanks!

Kristin Ritzau
Kristin Ritzau

Thanks for writing this Leslie -- seems a movement is brewing. Our baby chicks arrived last week and we are thrilled to be starting a chicken co-op with a couple families from our church. This movement affects so much: healthcare, immigration, safety, etc... it's one we all need to realize and I am excited to hear more about this farm you toured. We're trying to find something like that in LA, but alas, that is harder to find here. Our urban farm is coming along one step at a time, but we're excited. As we speak Nate is outside watering (probably should go help!). I wrote a series on food this past fall about how our need for food to "be perfect" has also has implication for our spiritual life. It was amazing to realize those connections. I would also recommend "The World According to Monsanto" and "Killer at Large" in addition to the ones your friend mentioned. They are good documentaries. I would love to hear more about what you're doing, so keep the foodie blogs coming!

Katie
Katie

Lesley - I LOVE this, "My questions may seem silly to some, or too “green thumb” for others, or just plain liberal. I don’t ask them from a political angle. I ask them simply from a health angle." I do not think your questions are silly or political! If you get a chance check out the documentaries "The Future of Food" and "King Corn". I strongly believe that it is our duty to find out what is in our food and what (sometimes unethical) corporations are behind it. Thanks for steppin’ out and bringing attention to the subject!