It is well documented that good nutrition is key to disease prevention. I have been fortunate in that from a very young age I always understood the role that fresh, unprocessed foods play in maintaining health. As a professional, the topic of nutrition always goes hand-in-hand with any health education that I do. Whether it’s health promotion, disease prevention or disease management, nutrition is key. So, if I am consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and the like AND telling everyone else to do the same it makes me think: where does all of this nourishing food come from? Without farmers, we don’t have access to the natural food sources we need to thrive.
According to the EPA, There are over 313,000,000 people living in the United States. (We have a lot of people to feed). Of that population, less than 1% claim farming as an occupation (and about 2% actually live on farms). The number of farms in the U.S. stands at about 2.2 million. So, my question when attending a recent Food Summit was this: if I’m not a farmer, what can I do to support them? We need good food for good health. I value farming as a profession in our society – but I’m not sure society understands the crucial part farmers play in public health.
I am not a farmer but I know agriculture is a fundamental component to well-being. Here are some ideas I walked away with after attending the Growing Connections Food Summit:
- Grow your own garden, even if it’s just a few items. Just prior to World War II Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged people to do this and about 60% of Americans did have their own. After the war, we started to industrialize food and home gardens pretty much disappeared.
- If a private garden isn’t feasible, maybe a community garden in your neighborhood or at your church/school is feasible.
- Compost at home and use it on your garden or give it to someone who could use it on their garden.
- If your own garden or community garden isn’t possible, join a Community Supported Agriculture or CSA. Here is a link to one I have been a part of at Earth Keeper Farm.
- Shop at farmer’s markets when/if possible. Try to get as much of your food locally as you can.
- Put pressure on your legislators in regards to where Farm Bill monies are spent. Are your tax dollars supporting large factory farms that are owned and operated by large corporations? (YES) Do these large corporations really need the millions of dollars in subsidies that they get? A very large percentage of all subsidies go to support 4 crops: corn, wheat, soy, and rice. How much of our money is going to family farms, or those who are farming fruits and vegetables? You can find more information on farm subsidies at the Environmental Working Group.
- Get involved in local organizations who support and promote agriculture and the environment. For those of you who are local and read this blog, here are a couple of ideas: WMEAC and The Sierra Club. There are plenty of non-profit organizations around the country that you can find to begin to participate in.
- Put pressure on people who make food choices for institutions. In other words, who is responsible for food sourcing at your work, school, local hospital, or even correctional facilities? Many of these places are funded by the government (i.e. your taxes) and could support local farms.
- Teach friends, family, and children how to be connected to real food. Discuss where your food is coming from and who is responsible for producing it. It takes back-breaking work to produce fresh, real foods. It deserves to be appreciated.
- Visit Beginning Farmers.
- Watch The Weight of the Nation: Challenges and Unnatural Causes.
- Read and view! There have been many recent books and documentaries published as of late that promote sustainable agriculture.
Farmers play a crucial role in the well-being of our country – and very few people understand this. Access to fresh, real food is the foundation for good health. We as professionals need to step back and acknowledge this. Farmers need our support. I encourage you to take whatever steps you can to promote and advocate for farmers in a culture that has little understanding and appreciation for the importance of agriculture in our society.