Have you ever tasted a just-picked carrot? Bright orange, yellow, or even purple, a carrot still warm from the soil tastes delectably crispy, bursting with an intensely sweet, but slightly nutty juicy goodness, with texture and flavor only faintly resembling the pale and somewhat woody shadow of the root sitting shrouded in the plastic bag in your grocery’s produce bin.
Have you had the pleasure of eating an egg only a day or two removed from the nest, one laid from a chicken that roams outside under the sun and feeds on grasses, seeds and insects? The bright orange, thick and richly-flavored yolk far outshines the pale yellow, thin yolk of the one from a factory farm trucked to your grocery store from 1,000 miles away.
The flavor and beauty of the carrot just plucked from the ground or the egg straight from the nest lies at the heart of the local and sustainable food movement. Fresh food, lovingly grown or raised and harvested, just tastes better. Not to mention, it’s better for your body, better for the environment and better for the local economy.
Let’s explore this issue a little more.
I hear a lot of talk about buying “local and sustainable” food. What exactly does “sustainable agriculture” mean?
The word “sustainable” literally means “to be able to maintain.” Sustainable agriculture, at its heart, means just that – to be a good steward of the land, giving back to the earth more than what is taken so a healthy farm can sustain, survive and thrive in harmony with nature.
Sustainable farming is a philosophy – a way of life – built around a strong belief in farming methods healthy for and friendly to the environment, animals, farm workers and the farming community. Sustainable farmers practice water and soil conservation and preservation and minimize transportation and fossil fuel use, keeping operations as local as possible.
Many farms do not use chemical pesticides, rotating a variety of crops through their fields to enrich the soil and help prevent disease. Animals on sustainable farms are treated humanely and with respect, and are fed a natural diet suited for their specific digestive systems.
In short, a modern sustainable farm closely resembles the quintessential American farm of 80 years ago – one in which farmers raised crops and livestock to provide nourishment for the community in which they lived.