April 2016 - Food Thoughts
While working with the community on this month’s special issue on “Food Matters,” I was able to learn about the many growing options we have in Northwest Florida, from organic to even “better than organic”—non-GMO veggies and meats and dairy that are produced in a healthier, more sustainable way. I must say we’ve come a long way. Eight years ago, when I asked a Publix employee where the organic produce was, he answered me by explaining, “No one is interested in organics.”
Well, that story has certainly changed over the years. Awareness of what you are eating has become mainstream, and greater demand is driving increased supply and many more options when it comes to cleaner foods, especially meat and dairy.
In raising my four boys, I’ve found our eating preferences a bit scattered. I generally refer to myself as a vegetarian, having avoided meat for well over a decade; more than 80 percent of my diet now consists of fresh, organic produce. But when it became clear that the other five members of the family were not about to surrender their appreciation for a delicious steak or roasted chicken, it became my priority to seek out the healthiest, most sustainable food options by focusing on where the food was coming from and how it was produced, and avoiding processed foods by making as much as possible from scratch.
As you read all the food-related articles in this month’s issue, you’ll see a variety of views on healthy eating. In our feature story, “Meaty Truths,” Melinda Hemmelgarn sheds light on the many issues that have made conscious eaters wary of the industrial meat system, steering omnivores toward wiser choices such as grass-fed beef. But in “Why Go Vegan,” we learn that even grass-fed cattle place a burden on the environment, producing more methane and requiring more land and water than crops, and that choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet is a “win-win-win”—benefiting the animals, the planet and our health. Then in our Wise Words article, land manager Allan Savory argues that holistic pasturing—livestock farming aided by holistic, planned grazing that mimics nature—can reverse climate change. Whichever view we take, we are moving in the right direction.
The important thing is to foster awareness of and vigilantly watch for what’s best for our bodies, our planet and the animals we are responsible for. As we continue to move foward we make a difference, like Marty Mesh, exectuive director of the Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, whose knowledge and expertise became the standards for the USDA.
I have already begun my garden seedlings this year. I recently joined a food co-op that delivers our organic produce once a week and a local buying club through which I can choose from a variety of foods and buy wholesale. For our meat and dairy needs, there are more than six farmers’ markets across the panhandle, as well as health food stores like Ever’man in Pensacola. For dining out, we love and rely on Synergy Café in Fort Walton Beach, and new farm-to-table spots are opening every day. Healthy food options and resources are now plentiful in Northwest Florida, and you can read all about them in this and future issues of Natural Awakenings.
As the spring season begins, take a few minutes to think deeply about how our food choices do indeed matter, and discover how you can make a difference. Every bit counts.
Happy Food Month,
Scott & Daralyn