Week 17: Our Grandparents Called It "Food"
by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood, 52 Weeks of Climate Action
Not that long ago, the trend toward “organic” food became a thing. Now, we assume that our food is not “organic”, if it isn’t labelled as such. And, the hoops farmers must jump through to have their produce carry that label is quite astounding. I have a farmer friend who once was told he couldn’t use the word “natural” on his own honey, because technically, it was processed. At some point in time, we decided that chemicals on and in our food wasn’t such a big deal. Now, we realize that not only are they bad for our bodies, they’re bad for our planet.
Challenge 17: This week buy organic produce where possible.
Agriculture is the world’s largest industry, generating over $1.3 trillion annually, and employing over a billion people. Cropland occupies over 50% of the earth’s habitable land. Sustainable farming protects watersheds, improves biodiversity, improves soil and water quality, preserves habitats, and maximizes the amount of food produced per acre. There is an increasingly urgent need for farming practices to become more sustainable worldwide. Many farmers operate small or generational farms, so their interest in the well-being of their soil and ecosystem is both economic and environmental. Today’s farmers face one of the biggest challenges in history: building sustainable food systems to feed 7.5 billion people, and solving climate change. In the face of climate change, arguably no other profession faces as direct a threat to its livelihood as agriculture does. And if farmers are unable to farm, our future is bleak. Soil is a natural carbon sink. And disturbing soil releases the carbon it naturally stores. The use of gas-powered equipment, controlled burns, the trend toward industrial animal farming practices, and the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers contribute significantly to greenhouse gases. Clearing land for agricultural use removes old-growth forests, and is one of the major reasons for the devastation of rainforests. It’s estimated that 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions is from food production. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action have launched a campaign called 30 Harvests, which bluntly states that if we continue with business as usual, we have only 30 more harvests before irreversible climate catastrophe changes the face of farming. You read that right: thirty. It’s a sobering thought when looked at through that lens. Farmers are the unsung heroes of our food supply system, and are major players in the carbon conversation. Farmers have a passion for the land, and a connection to the environment that puts them in a unique position to be game changers when it comes to sustainability, and carbon reduction. Because agriculture plays such a huge role in the carbon conversation, it often gets a bad rap for being on the wrong end of the sustainability scale. That does all our hard working farmers a disservice. Farmers are poised to be the heroes, not the villains in this story. Progress is the willingness to look at newer and better solutions to old problems. So it stands to reason that when we know better, we do better. And farming is no exception. There is a strong movement toward sustainable, ecological, organic, ethical farming. There is even a local organization called Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, which supports farmers in building ecologically resilient farms, and operates as a community of information sharing farmers who help and support each other on this path. Building sustainable farms means that future generations are food secure, our ecosystems are healthy, and our climate is stable. Farmers can turn this whole thing around. Organic farming seeks to improve soil and the ecosystem so that it works in harmony with nature. It builds up the soil through composting, crop rotation, and cover cropping, which reduces the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers. It often uses animals to fertilize soil, through free-range pasturing. All of these practices improve the soil’s ability to sequester carbon. When you buy organic, you’re voting with your dollars. You’re saying that you choose to support sustainable farming practices that have an eye on the future. You’re saying that you care about how your food is produced, and where it comes from. When you support sustainable farmers and you choose not to support industrial, factory conglomerates, you’re giving more power back to the family farm to compete in a very competitive market. And you’re doing good for the planet. Yours in sustainability, Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood 52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.