Tom Philpott wrote a great article at Grist that is particularly relevant in light of the recent E.coli spinach contamination and other concerns over food safety. Philpott describes how federal attempts to protect the food we eat essentially create bureaucracies that put small-scale, community farmers at a disadvantage.
As Philpott argues, there are many reasons to support and encourage people to buy from small-scale, local farms. For one, in an age of expensive oil, eating local saves on long-distance transportation costs. Another benefit is that if a contamination does occur, it will remain local and be much easier to identify–this our save us national hysteria, and while one community might have to be wary of a certain crop for a while the rest of the nation could continue to eat without qualms. Other benefits? Freshness, taste, supporting local jobs…
Indeed, Philpott suggests buying local and getting to know local farmers. He also recommends planting in your yard or in a pot. This is something I’ve been getting better at for the last couple years and also highly recommend. There’s something extremely satisfying about watching your food grow from plant to flower to vegetable, and there’s nothing like aroma of fresh herbs and eating the delicious food that you grew… and it’s really not that complicated. A little water, sun, and warmth usually does the trick.
By doing these things, Philpott tells us, “You’ll be taking a measure of control over — and responsibility for — food production in a society of passive food consumers. And you’ll be gaining food-growing knowledge in a system predicated on consumer ignorance.”