The Political Dynamics of Choosing Locally Farmed Organic Food

“In the act of eating, we are already participating in production. By eating organic, we are saying no to toxins and supporting the organic farmer. By rejecting GMOs, we are voting for the rights of small farmers and people’s rights to information and health. By eating local, we are taking power and profits away from global agribusiness and strengthening our local food community. Eaters are, therefore, also co-producers, both because their relationship with small producers is a critical link in creating a sustainable, just, healthy food system and because we are what we eat. In making food choices, we make choices about who we are”. Vandana Shiva

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In many ways, one of the pivotal aspects of living a holistic lifestyle is through our conscious awareness of the food that we are consuming. In my opinion, the first most important precursor to really embodying a lifestyle that is Whole, is to first use discrimination in determining where our food originates and what costs are associated with each of our food choices. I mention this point, as when you go to Wholefoods to purchase your ‘organic’ vegetables what you may not think about is that almost all the produce has been imported, picked partially unripe, and transported to each of their stores throughout North America. Therefore, the carbon foot print is immense. I also realize that it is not possible for everyone to plant their own garden or to find a farmers market, yet we live in such an extremely unconscious world, that if you are attempting to eat more organic food, or even attempting to make healthier food choices then it’s important to be able to discern what that means.

One of the reasons why its important to understand what constitutes making conscious food choices and the cost associated, is because there is a huge political cost that each of us contributes to when we go to our local farmers market and directly support our own community of small organic farmers, rather than supporting a massive corporation like Wholefoods. Almost all of the organic farmers who sell their produce at local farmers markets are really not profiting much more than being able to keep their small farm functioning. Therefore, its important to take into consideration that if people do not support theses small farmers through purchasing what they have to sell, they will eventually no longer exist.

In addition, each small organic farm that no longer can continue to function, opens up more opportunity for large corporate agriculture to take its place. In addition, with the loss of small organic farms we then see price increases for the organic foods available. In support of what I have already stipulated, for those of you who have been consuming organic foods for the last ten years or longer, there has been a steady increase in prices of all certified organic food items. One example is the cost of organic almonds, which has shot through the roof over the last several years due to the fact that the high demand for organic almonds far outweighs the availability. Thus, there are far too few farms producing organic almonds to meet the high demand, therefore the price will continue to rise. I have used this particular example to outline the necessity of supporting the local organic farmers that are living within our communities or near the cities where we are living. When we support those few people passionate about organic farming, we not only contribute to supporting our local economy, but also this ensures the survival and longevity of the local organic farmers to keep producing organic foods that are  available to us. In this way its a form of food sovereignty, that many of us are most likely unaware of.

In my experience, the majority of my life I have been eating ‘organic’ foods, first coming from my mother who was organic gardening way before her time, over 40 years ago. I have also lived in several countries in my lifetime and had the opportunity to experience different ways food is made locally available or not. One of the  countries that I live in was Switzerland, where  in the small villages the local grocery store sold almost all locally grown produce from around the area. In England I lived in Totness South Devon, which is one of the riches organic small farming areas of England. I was blessed with locally grown produce, even the organic wheat used in the locally bakery’s bread was grown nearby. However, when I lived in Japan for three years, I realized that attempting to find food items that were unrefined a problem. There was a small company that sold some ‘health food’ items, yet organic food was very difficult to find, although I did mange to find some items at a very small local vegetarian restaurant that also sold some organic fruit and other products.

When I came back to Canada I was very much in awe of the vast array and choices of ‘organic’ food that was available, yet I too went to the local health food store to purchase my produce. It was not until I went back to University in 2006 as a mature student and started to study Anthropology. I took a course in Anthropology and Food, one of our guest speakers was a huge local food activist, who made me realize that the city I had been living in was teeming with local famers markets throughout the year. This was an astounding find, something that I had never really thought about all that much, as I had been conditioned over the years of going shopping in health food stores to find ‘organic’ food.

During my time studying Anthropology my interest was based in medical anthropology, yet for one of my methodology classes of a 400 level we spent an entire semester working on our own Ethnography, which is essentially how anthropologists do their research in the field, as apparent ‘observers’ to formulate a theory. I chose the local farmers market, where I would spend long durations of time talking with the farmers, interviewing the local shoppers, and just watching the dynamics of the market ambiance. It was a fascinating and extremely eye opening experience that further propelled me to make the farmers market the topic of several research papers.

After conducting four months of research, I realized that the majority of the people who shop and frequent their local farmers market do so out of political reasons mainly; such as to support the local economy, to support the local farmers, to obtain the purest and highest quality food available, and to connect directly with the farmers themselves who have grown the food. I found there was a deep understanding embodied by many people regarding the impact of political economy, which stipulates that how you spend your money has a tremendous impact through directly supporting whatever you are purchasing. 

I have spent my entire life intrigued and absorbed by holistic health in all its aspects, from various paradigms of holistic medicine, diet therapy, herbal medicine systems, dietary supplements, and how the quest for health and balance is inextricably tied to the environment, our society and cultural norms, and the overall hegemony of the powerful corporations that exist. I realize that the MOST important aspect of holistic health is to have extreme awareness and discrimination when discerning how we care for our physical bodies. Thus, the quality of food that we eats directly affects not only our physical health but also our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Moreover, in my opinion we need to embody enough awareness to inquire where our food is coming from and what we are inevitably supporting by purchasing from these particular venders. I personally purchase everything I can from the local organic farmers, as I appreciate the high quality produce that they are selling. I am also aware that if we do not support our local organic farmers, then our only organic food choices will be from Wholefoods, where they offer organic produce from mechanical agriculture that is devitalized, in comparison to the fresh produce from a local farm. In addition, when I go to the farmers market I feel like I am part of a large community of people who are actively supporting our local organic farmers through continually purchasing produce and other good from them, sharing recipes, and having a friendly relationship that has been built up over the many years of continual interaction and support.

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