As we prepare for our feasts tomorrow lets think about what is important to us in our lives and how this relates to farms and agriculture. The AgChat Foundation suggests that we take time out today to give thanks for food, #foodthanks. Some of my best childhood memories include gardening and cooking with my Mom as well as going to U-Pick farms for fruits. I hope that my children have developed similar experiences of food; both cooking and growing in their memories.
On Thanksgiving most of us will come together with family and/or friends to celebrate and give thanks for the things in our lives that are important. As I reflect on my life the things that come to mind that I am thankful for include:
Quality of life
My family, parents and siblings, had always come together at the dinner table over food. Family dinners are a tradition I have continued after I started my own family and something I hope has impacted my children. It is a way of teaching nutrition, spending time together and learning how to cook using real food rather than prepared packages. I am shocked when I hear that many families do not eat together.
When I spend time with friends, it is often over a meal where we can sit and talk. Health for each and everyone of us depends upon food. The less processed our food and closer to the farm it is the healthier it is. In fact the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that we can decrease the risk of cancer significantly by eating more fruits and vegetables.
My work also centers on farming to a certain extent. I grow herbs on my farm that I use to make botanically based skin care products. Although most of us do realize that farms are necessary for our food, do we realize that farms also produce fiber, animal feed, fuel, medicines, vegetable oils used in body care and more.
So how we can both celebrate agriculture and thank those involved in agriculture. For me its supporting farmers markets and local food. A lot of fossil fuel is used in transporting produce from one part of the country to another, or even from other countries. Fossil fuels are also used to power farm equipment, produce pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Because of this I look for small farms that grow without the use of pesticides and herbicides and use limited fuels. I do not search for certified organic however because I know how costly and distracting it is to become certified.
Supporting small farmers can increase our sustainability as a nation. The more centralized our food system is the more devastating and debilitating it would be in case of a disaster caused either by terrorism or natural causes. Large factory farms can be the source of a lot of problems in our food system. Support smaller farms that practice crop diversity and seed saving for our future.
To decrease the carbon foot print of food you could also plant a garden in your yard. Some of our country’s best agricultural land is to be found in our housing subdivisions now. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt first encouraged home gardeners during WWII to plant home gardens to raise awareness of healthy food. 20 million victory gardens were planted during WWII producing 9-10 million tons of fruits and vegetables; enough to meet 50% of the county’s needs. The number of families doing canning also increased during this time. Unfortunately, food shortages occurred at the end of the war when citizens abandoned their victory gardens. First Lady Michelle Obama has once again drawn attention to food by planting a 1100 square foot Victory Garden on the White House lawn, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt planted one in World War II to raise awareness of healthy food.
You can view this video
This Thanksgiving, give thanks not only to the farmers who grow the food for our feasts but also for our natural resources that make it possible.
You can view this 1940’s film put out by the Department of Agriculture to help teach people how to garden.