Shopping for Real Food

I love food.

Did you hear the emphasis in “love?”  ‘Cause you should have.

I have loved food long before the way I thought of food changed. (That’s a tricky sentence.)  I was regularly in the kitchen, creating and cooking.  Because I love food so much, I was always trying to not just cook well, but better.

Now that I see food as a way to heal up issues that have plagued me for years (weight, hormones, etc.), I am looking further into “real-food” and what it means to eat it.  While I love my sense of taste, it often leads to gluttony, so I am actively looking for ways to eat food, feel more full for longer, so I’m less likely to over-indulge (that, and a whole lot of praying.  And I’m not kidding about that.).

It is no secret that we are not in favor of genetically modified organisms/foods (titled “GMOs” in the remainder of the article).  I read a very interesting article here from the University of Texas that even hybrid fruits and vegetables aren’t as nutritionally sound, as they’ve been bred for production, not nutrition.  (And there’s another good article referencing UT’s results, as well as other organizations here.)  And for further clarification – GMOs are done with genetic-tweaking, hybrids are not; hybrids are often combinations of the same plant to achieve a certain goal (say, combining two types of apples so you get a new kind of apple that has the good attributes of the two original).  GMOs are created in a lab, hybrid are often done by the farmer’s themselves.

And I can’t really blame anyone, on the surface.  These farmers are running a business, and they have basic accounting principles to deal with – how can we get the most for our money?  Biggest return on investment?  So, they may be opposed to GMOs, but ok with hybrids because it still helps them with the bottom-line.

I’m not here to bash farmers (after all, they give me my FOOD! The real stuff, too!).  But what I am here to do is encourage you to think:  where are you getting your food?  What does their word mean about the quality of their food?

I am proud to have joined a vegetable CSA (community shared agriculture) this year that prides itself on using heirloom seeds.  (Also joined a CSA that raises pastured chickens!) I have a new goal this year to eat as much from local farmers, and as heirloom as possible.  Between the steer I have in my freezer, my CSAs, and farmer’s markets, I’m really hoping to shrink my dependence on big agriculture at the grocery stores this summer.

If you reside in the Mohawk Valley region, you might want to check out this facebook group.  It’s pretty new, but the idea is this: the group is sharing their resources and ideas on how to eat locally and clean up our food.  I have already found questions to answers I’ve been chewing on, and the group has existed for only a week!

If you don’t live in my area, start googling.  I would start with the farmer’s markets.  You’ll meet the farmers and hear about their methods.  And  you’d be surprised to find out all the farmer’s markets that are still occurring in the dead of winter!

We each should determine our own standards, and stick to them; even between Eleilia and I, we have differing opinions. Here are some starting questions to ask the farmers you meet… and you can determine for yourself what is an acceptable answer:

PRODUCE:

  1. Do you use chemicals or pesticides on your produce? (NOTE: organics would use all-natural!)
  2. What, if anything, do you supplement, either directly to the plant or to the soil?
  3. Do you rotate your crops?
  4. Where do you purchase your seed?
  5. Do you use hybrid or genetically modified seed?

MEAT/DAIRY/EGGS:

  1. Do you give antibiotics to your animals?
  2. What do you do when they are sick?
  3. What do they eat on a regular basis?  Is it genetically modified? (Only if they answer to the first question includes corn, soy, alfalfa, etc.)
  4. How much/often are they given access to pasture (roam outdoors and pick what they want to eat)?
(Special note: I don’t ask them if they’re certified organic. You have to understand that NOFA-NY and USDA certification is lengthy and incredibly expensive.  Many farmers cannot afford it.)

Additional resources to help you define what are YOUR food standards – pick one off each document, or adhere to them all… it’s up to you.

  • NOFA-NY (Northeast Organic Farming Association – NY branch) Farmer’s Pledge:  here
  • An explanation on what all the different type of “real-food diets” mean from “100 Days of Real Food”:  here
  • Philosophical post of the feed of animals from “100 Days of Real Food”: here
  • Philosophical post on why it’s important to ask about the soil from “Reformation Acres”:  here
  • A blog entry from Nourished Kitchen that gives some specific tips on shopping at a farmer’s market:  here

My biggest hope and prayer is that you think for yourself and determine what is acceptable, and what is not.  Read up on your food, be wise consumers.  I am not sure who said it, but “you vote with your dollars”… so be careful where you spend it.  God entrusted us with the resources He provides.

And eat real food.

green apple

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