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Sustainable Food News And Why It’s So Important to Our Future


Sustainable food is a hot item in the news lately – and with good reason. People are taking notice of the damage, pollution, disease that is caused directly from the production and by-products of industrial food.

Photo, courtesy of Francis Thicke for Secretary of Agriculture

The industrial food system, which comprises most of the food produced, bought, sold, and eaten in the United States, is responsible for many problems in the world today – ground water pollution, air pollution, disintegration of soil quality and damage to other natural resources, the existence of drug-resistant bacteria, an increase in employee health risks from exposure to chemicals and antibiotic over-use,  a rise in health care and environmental costs and taxes, and untold health problems in human beings and animals alike.

Hopefully over the last few months, the numerous incidence of food recalls is getting the attention of many about this important topic. If you’ve been eating conventional and industrial food, now’s the time to make a switch and start supporting your local farmers who use sustainable methods, and who indeed produce real food!

Farmer’s markets are available in most communities, so there’s no excuse not to head down and check out what’s available in your local area. Become part of a vibrant, active food community that is fighting to maintain the right for people to be able to buy and eat good quality food produced in a safe and healthy environment. Our future depends on it!

Please take a few moments and read the following important critical items which are currently on the forefront of our sustainable food movement and need your attention:

Support Francis Thicke for Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa!

Francis Thicke understands sustainable agriculture and he is running for Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa state. He has been an organic dairy farmer who keeps his cattle on grass. For nearly 30 years and has served in various capacities of public service including the USDA State Technical Committee, the Scientific Congress on Organic Agriculture Research, the Organic Farming Research Foundation Board of Directors, the Governing Council of the Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture Research, and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service Board of Directors. He also holds a Ph.D. in soil sciences.

On the opposite side of the page is Incumbent Secretary Bill Northey, who has a long-standing background as a supporter and proponent of industrial agriculture. Northey has accepted campaign donations from Monsanto, Walmart, Syngenta, and DuPont. His educational background includes an MBA and has been a soybean and corn farmer for many years.

“For the food movement, [this race] is the most important this election,” Michael Pollan told The Atlantic. “If Thicke can pull this off — and he’s in range — it will send an important message nationally that even Iowa, the heart of corn and hog country, is eager for reform, and that the ‘Farm block’ is not as monolithic as people in Congress assume.” Read this in-depth article about this important race in The Atlantic. Then spread the word! Donate to Francis Thicke’s campaign…and if you live in Iowa, by all means, get to those polls on November 2nd!

Save Morningland Dairy!

This small, family owned business has been through a great deal of difficulty recently as they are battling a large recall by the FDA of raw cheese that never actually contained pathogenic bacteria and has not undergone proper testing. Read this article which provides the details of this event, and learn what you can do to help keep Morningland Dairy’s doors from closing. Also, read this important post from Hartke is Online! from Mark McAfee (of Organic Pastures in Fresno, CA) about the farm raids that have been occurring in our country – yes, FARM RAIDS by the FDA, and what you can do to stop them. Want to know more about raw milk? Read The Truth About Raw Milk, Part I and Part II.

Shame on you, Monsanto!

In case you hadn’t heard, Monsanto is now paying farmers to spray pesticide products of its competitors. Monsanto has done some pretty low things in its history, so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. However, it doesn’t prevent this act from being any less heinous. It is imperative to put a stop to Monsanto’s actions – please join the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign. Also, please check out the movie, The World According to Monsanto on the Institute for Responsible Technology web site.

Nanotechnology in organic food?

Yep. I wish I didn’t even have to include this, but we simply must keep frankenfoods out of our food supply – and now there is a threat of nanotechnology being included in the growing of organic foods. Nano-particles are now being used in a variety of products. These have not been tested and are NOT labeled. It’s been used in foods and personal care products, and much more. Follow this Action Alert and learn all you can about this emerging presence in our food supply and send a message to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. Then take action to become informed and boycott these products!

Grass-fed meat

Do you know what the difference is between this amazing food and the toxic, meat-like substances you’ve been eating? I love articles like this – Organic Consumers Association has a fantastic description of how superior in many ways eating grass fed meat is to its industrial, and more ubiquitous counterpart – from supporting human and animal health to caring for the environment. Still not convinced? Take The Grassfed Meat Challenge!

Speaking of food recalls…

Here’s a great article in Mother Earth News about why industrial and factory chicken farms are such terrible places to get your eggs – and why you should not support them in any way, shape, or form. Confused about labels in the store or even when you are shopping for eggs and poultry at the farmer’s market? Here is an informative post about how to read poultry and egg labels and what terms like “organic”, “free-range”, and “cage-free” really mean.

Eat wheat?

You probably already know that it’s a very common ingredient in our food supply – so common, in fact, that it’s responsible for contributing to many health issues from obesity, auto-immune disorders, diabetes, and cancer. It’s not just because wheat is in everything we eat (although that is a big problem), it’s also that the gluten content of modern wheat is vastly different than that of its historical counterpart. Gluten is the substance which gives dough its elasticity in cooking and baking of which people are so fond – but it’s a difficult protein to digest. This causes many health problems which originate in the digestive tract. These substances are irritating to our gut and end up being absorbed through the intestinal wall as toxins that enter the bloodstream. Read about a more traditional, real, whole grain wheat that is being produced by sustainable food growers on Civil Eats.

Have you ditched the BPA yet?

Bisphenol A, a commonly used chemical in plastics over the last numerous decades, is being reported as having a detrimental effect on human and environmental health. It’s presence in bottles, packages, cans, and many other products has been blamed for being the cause of cancer, reproductive, nervous system, cardiovascular and many other problems. If not, read about how major producers are getting rid of BPA in their packaging.

Think growing your own food isn’t necessary?

Some people beg to differ. According to Wendell Berry, “Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed. Connection is health. And what our society does its best to disguise from us is how ordinary, how commonly attainable, health is. We lose our health – and create profitable diseases and dependencies – by failing to see the direct connections between living and eating, eating and working, working and loving. In gardening, for instance, one works with the body to feed the body. The work, if it is knowledgeable, makes for excellent food. And it makes one hungry.”

It may be the case that someday we won’t have a choice, and the condition of our food supply is becoming more dire each and every day. Read this interesting letter from a woman in Wisconsin explaining how the importance of producing our own food in a sustainable way is written about in the Bible.

And, here are 7 Reasons Why You Should Grow Your Own Food.  Need more reasons? Read The Benefits of Growing Your Own Food.

Now, more than ever, thinking about sustainable food is one of the most important social, political, and health-related things you can do. If this is all new to you, I urge you to think about what our industrial food is doing to our entire way of life and how it will ultimately impact our future existence. It’s something that affects every man, woman, child, and many animals on this planet. Everyone has to eat food to live – so why is it that now it’s acceptable to eat substances that are toxic and harmful to our health? The answer is in the money and profit it brings to various individuals and companies who control our food supply. Those entities want to make sure we don’t have a choice, and that we don’t have access to clean, real food for our health.

Make sure your future is healthy and that you have a choice about what you eat – make your voice heard through the money you spend by putting it in the right places – in the hands of sustainable farmers who care enough to produce the food you want – not in the hands of big, bloated, corporate interests that don’t care about your health or the environment.

Stop the Use Of GMOs in Our Food Supply

Sustainable Farming  – Is It Practical And Can It Feed Us All?

Is Cheap Food Really Cheap? The Hidden Costs of Industrial Food

The Time To Act Is Now – Oppose  Bill S.510 -The Food Safety And Modernization Act

How Well Do You Know Your Food? Find Out!

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Real Food Reviews

Sustainable Farming – Is It Practical and Can It Feed Us All?


I’ve had many conversations with a variety of people about the subject of sustainable farming and whether or not it is feasible on a large scale to switch over from conventional farming methods to non-petroleum, non-chemical methods, and eliminate the practice of concentrated animal feeding operations and factory farms.

Whether the idea of sustainable farming conjurs up in your head the picture of a horse pulling a metal plow through a field or you imagine tractors and columbines doing the work as many do on many modern farms (organic as well as conventional), the question of how we can change our farming practices to make our efforts more sustainable is on the forefront of the most pressing and critical issues in the world with regard to health, prosperity, and our future.

There’s always someone wanting to debate this, so I’d like to discuss some of reasons why it is important for us to understand the impact of conventional farming on our world, how it  cannot continue on as it has over the last 100 plus years, and why I believe the claims made about sustainable farming not being possible to feed the world are simply unfounded.

Thicke for Secretary of Agriculture

A very important thing is happening in Iowa – a sustainable farmer who knows the issues we are facing as a nation and in the world with regard to our food safety, laws, and supply is running for Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa this election season.

Why should we care? For starters, Francis Thicke knows sustainable farming methods can be both efficient and modern.  He has been a farmer for nearly 30 years, has been active the agricultural movement in various capacities since that time. He has been an integral part of the grass-roots movement to alter the face of farming from conventional to sustainable.  He has a long-standing public service record in the agricultural and government policy realms. Among other things, he has served on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Iowa Food Policy Council, and the Iowa Organic Standards Boards.

“While we can learn and apply many things from earlier traditional farming methods, advances in technology and increased understanding of biology and ecology have taken organic farming far beyond the farming methods of 100 years ago,” he writes. “Organic methods optimize the use of locally available resources and biologically produced resources on site, rather than relying on expensive external inputs that are not readily available and are often too expensive for limited-resource farmers.”

In his campaign, he discusses the importance of how our focus on organic farming has allowed us to advance our knowledge and techniques, such as with improved machinery and technology. He’s not necessarily in favor of turning back the clock – in fact, he wants to use science and technology to further our abilities to produce food, but with safe and sustainable methods. We are acquiring a better comprehension as time goes on of how to deal with weeds and insects with natural methods such as beneficial insects and crop rotation to control these factors without the use of toxic chemicals.

He has also observed that although a lesser amount of funds are dedicated toward “official” research of organic farming, organic and sustainable farming maintains its position and continues to be a player in agricultural business. This, he believes, is solid proof of the strong principles and success of sustainable farmers and methods.

Thicke calls witness to the fact that organic agriculture has continued to progress despite the relative availability of research funds dedicated to it, as compared to those directed toward conventional methods. Indeed, this points to the strength of organic farming’s methods, principles, and practitioners. As conventional farming tends to be more concentrated in developed countries, the rest of the world’s farmers and food growers still use sustainable practices. Most everyone else is simply too poor to even conceive of using methods used by conventional farming with expensive, petroleum-based fertilizers and chemicals.

“Organic methods optimize the use of locally available resources and biologically produced resources on site, rather than relying on expensive external inputs that are not readily available and are often too expensive for limited-resource farmers.” From the Thicke for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture site.

When candidates like this get behind important issues that affect everyone, it is our duty to get behind them and help them succeed. Find out how you can make a difference and help Francis Thicke become the Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa – state that has a great deal of influence on our country’s farming culture and habits. Spread the word about his candidacy on your blog, on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks, or donate to his campaign.

Read this great article about Francis Thicke on Grist.org.

What is YOUR diet for a hot planet?

I have been reading Anna Lappé’s Diet For A Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at The End of Your Fork And What You Can Do About It, and I’m really interested in some of the points she makes in this well-written book:

  • Many people are so busy pointing the finger at the cause of global warming being the carbon monoxide emissions from our vehicles and other operations requiring carbon-based fuel (which may or may not be the case), but very little attention is aimed at the damage and pollution from factory farming facilities which produce a large majority of our food (especially meat).
  • Lappé makes a strong case for the move toward sustainably-produced meat, in ways that many other authors have not. Various arguments are made and discussed about the emissions of grass-fed versus grain-fed meat and which has the ultimate negative impact on the environment. As we are shown, meat from grain-fed cattle “produces greenhouse-gas emissions at nearly every stage in the process”. And although the constant request is made for yet “more scientific evidence” to prove once and for all that grass-fed is superior to grain-fed, Lappé readily admits to there being a preponderance of evidence that factory-farming damages the environment in ways sustainable farming doesn’t.

Like Michael Pollan, Lappé talks a number of times about reducing the “amount of meat” we eat, and it’s true that she has been quoted as saying that she is making an effort to cut meat out of her own diet. Although I’m not about cutting meat our of our diets, I do believe the natural result of eliminating factory farms and confined animal feeding operations would be a lower consumption of meat.

Currently, most people eat hormone and antibiotic-treated meat from animals and birds eating a diet heavy in soy, grains, and corn (among other things) which contributes to health imbalances such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, auto-immune disorders, and many other problems – among them a feeling of lingering hunger and insatiable appetite. If consumers did start eating less of this meat and more of the grass-fed meat from healthy animals and birds on pasture, nutritional imbalances would change and so would our health and food cravings. So the honest truth is, we really would be eating less meat as a result. But it wouldn’t be because meat isn’t healthy for us to eat, because it is when it’s from healthy animals and birds raised correctly.

At a recent book signing in Portland, OR, Ms. Lappe was questioned by a man about the nutritional content of organic crops as compared to conventional crops. Before her answer came, she said, “What you call conventional farming I prefer to call ‘industrial farming’ or ‘factory-farming.’ What is conventional? We’ve only been engaging in industrial farming for the past 50, maybe 100 years, so it’s not conventional or traditional.”

Here is a public presentation from WGBH featuring the author and her mother, Frances Moore Lappé (also an author) about her recent book. Whether you agree with her meat-reducing ideas or not (I don’t), I still believe this book has a great deal of in-depth and convincing data that tells us sustainable farming is the way we need to go.

Here are a few of my own points:

  • The idea that sustainable and organic farming can’t possibly feed larger populations of people is unfounded because up until the Industrial Revolution occurred, sustainable farming occurred all over the planet for thousands and thousands of years. These efforts fed large populations of people, as large or even larger than some of our modern cities. Listen to this great podcast from Our Natural Life (Jon and Cathy Payne) and their interview with Kimberly Hartke, publicist for The Weston A. Price Foundation and writer of Hartke Is Online! Besides talking about how she became acquainted with the notion of sustainability and how it has affected her life, she also discusses the myths that sustainable farming and living isn’t solvent or capable of feeding communities on the large-scale.
  • The mantra that sustainable farming cannot work is something that has been propagated by the big agricultural companies as a way to counteract efforts to move away from conventional farming. This idea has become so pervasive and has been so successful you will hear many people mouthing it over and over again – to the point that they can’t even support their arguments with well-documented research or intelligent arguments.
  • Besides the risk to human and animal health, at the current rate that top soil and other natural components of land are being polluted and destroyed by conventional farming practices, the choice for sustainable farming is one of the only things that will prevent the land from becoming completely incapable of growing food in the future. By using heavy machinery and chemicals, conventional farming disintegrates soil tilth. This process causes compaction of the soil and destroys nutrients.  In the process, very little if any organic material is supplemented back. What is added in are inorganic nutrients from synthetic fertilizers. These substances are used excessively and as a result seep down beneath soil areas to contaminate groundwater. Surrounding soil areas and water, then, are also polluted. This negatively impacts many species of native plants and animals
  • According to Food First: “Looking at 293 examples comparing alternative and conventional agriculture from 91 studies, a group of University of Michigan researchers were able to demonstrate that current scientific knowledge simply does not support the idea that a switch to organic and sustainable agriculture would drastically lower food production and lead to hunger. Instead, we found that current knowledge implies that, even under conservative estimates, organic agriculture could provide almost as much food on average at a global level as is produced today (2,641 as opposed to 2,786 kilocalories/person/day after losses). In what these University of Michigan researchers considered a more “realistic” estimation, organic agriculture could actually increase global food production by as much as 50% (to 4,381 kilocalories/person/day).”

What’s at stake for the future?

The truth is, in order to really make a difference, much about the way we view farming has to go through a massive change – obviously from the conventional perspective, but even from organic many so-called sustainable standpoints as well.

Recently, I came across an amazing documentary from the BBC titled, “A Farm For the Future” which addresses these important considerations in a unique way.

Here is Part I of this show:

This insightful production filmed in the UK features wildlife filmmaker Rebecca Hosking discussing the current global food and farming crisis in great detail, and the alternatives we have to feed the planet for the future. She grew up on a small, traditional family farm and is now returning to her childhood home to learn about the prospect of running the farm and making it profitable while still preserving the amazing wildlife and landscape there. She brings up some very important and interesting points, some of which I agree with, and some not.

Some of the farmers and caretakers of the land Rebecca visits with on the documentary show her how the plants, insects, and animals play an integral role in sustaining the land, crops, and food that grow. Seeing just how self-maintaining the land is provides a great example of just how much you can yield with minimal work. The topic of permaculture in forest gardens is also discussed and the ways we learn about how the land takes care of itself is utterly fascinating and quite miraculous.

Watch the rest of this documentary:

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

How can you make a difference?

  • Cook at home, from scratch, and with healthy ingredients
  • Consume less – reuse, recycle, and stretch out your food and other resources by using every part of what you have and buy, whenever possible.
  • Do your own research and learn about how you can make a difference

How do you you live sustainably? Do you grow your own food or buy from sustainable farmers? I’d love to hear about your habits!

Learn more about eating well, saving money, and being sustainable in your life:

Embrace and Perfect Your Home-keeping Skills

Is Cheap Food Really Cheap? The Hidden Costs of Industrial Food

The Truth About Raw Milk, Part I

Can You Afford Not To Eat Healthy?

Fortified and Processed Foods: Are Label Claims About Nutrition True?

Food Budgets – Using Creativity and Prioritizing For Healthy Eating

This post is part of Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival.