Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Want Transparency in Food Production? Visit Your Local Farm

Last year, we went to a public talk given by Joel Salatin, the local sustainable farmer turned food activist featured in such media as my beloved The Omnivore's Dilemma or the documentary Food Inc.  One of the many issues that Salatin promotes is the idea that food production should be transparent--that the people who are producing your food should welcome you to see what is being raised and how.  Of course, outside visitors are not welcomed by most factory food production sites, and Salatin says there is a reason for that.  He argues that industrialized food cuts all sorts of corners (such as the recent new items that testing found that the "beef" in Taco Bell's "beef tacos" was actually only about 30% beef) that they don't want the public to know about.   For a brief discussion of this issue, watch the four-minute video below:

However, just the opposite is true of most local farms, especially those that practice sustainable and organic/no or low pesticides/natural food production.  So we took advantage of that this week when we went to visit the farm from which we purchase most of our vegetables at our local farmers market.

When we asked about visiting, our farmers, Barbara and Loyied Norris, said they were glad to have us anytime, and whipped out a map.  Their farm is within Wake County, about half an hour from our home.  So we drove out there, and found not only gracious hosts (despite the weather being in the upper 90's), but a gorgeous farm.
Loyied Norris and vistors

Mr. Loyied took a break from his irrigating and fertilizing to show us around.  He farms about 60 acres, filled with all sorts of produce.  They also have a beautiful pond that is clear of algae and green scum, stocked with fish that the Norris family and friends catch for supper.

The children got to see the dried stalks of crops that are done for the year (such as the sugar snap peas), and walked along the blooming beds of current crops, such as tomatoes and squash.

They also got to see the fields of treats that we have to look forward to in the future, such as peppers (I can't buy enough peppers to keep my son satisfied, so loves to eat them raw as a snack).

It was a great learning experience for the children, and a great reminder for the adults that it really does matter where you get your food.  Mr. Norris is in his 80's, but he still works in the field every day, despite the temperature or weather.  Farms like his are a treasure, and we should do all that we can to support them.

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