Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book Club...The Omnivore's Dilemma (+ Farm Shares!)

As a bit of a foodie (with a healthy appetite), I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered where the food on their plate came from. And I recommend it even more to anyone who hasn't wondered, because this you need to know about. In The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan walks the reader through the steps that food takes to get from the farm (or ranch) to the table, and the road is a very eye-opening and frightening one. The author explains how our disconnectedness from the food we eat has serious implications for the health of our bodies, and the health of the planet and economy.
In short, most mass-purchased produce is grown using toxic petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, and then trucked or flown across the country (or even further, in the case of the bell peppers from Spain I got at the supermarket yesterday) to distribution centers, then trucked to local stores. By the time you buy it, it has been out of the ground for many days, and has taken very costly and environment-damaging travels to get to you.

After reading this book, I felt very empowered by the information and was inspired to try to shorten the path between my food and myself. As a city dweller, my options are limited (short of turning our rooftop into a chicken coop), but I was an inspired by a friend in Philadelphia, who belongs to a farm cooperative, to try to find one in my area. The website Just Food provides a great resource for finding CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs in the NYC area (or you can just google CSA and your city name, and some should come up). Here's how it works: you pay a farm a certain amount of money (usually between $250-500 for a full summer of produce) upfront- literal "seed money"- and then when the season comes, you receive a box of whatever veggies and fruit the harvest produced each week. While you share in the inherent risks (drought, insect infestation) of farming, you will likely end up with super-fresh, organic local produce for lower-than-supermarket price all summer long (usually June-November). Most also have optional chicken, dairy and egg share options as well. Some CSAs deliver to homes, or some require you to pick up during certain hours each week (so choose one close to home). All in all, it's an easy and delicious way to make the food chain a little shorter.

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