But there are many good reasons for us to examine how (and where) our food is produced.
Industrial agriculture is currently the world's largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, much of which comes from transportation and unsustainable farming practices. Also, the vast majority of meat, eggs, and dairy products sold in American grocery chains and restaurants comes from animals raised in intensive-confinement systems that impose significant stress on the animals in pursuit of production efficiency. These and other issues make food an important topic when thinking about sustainability. As we look for ways to protect our resources for future generations, here are two great options for making sustainable food choices:
Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle City Council members announced 2010 to be "The Year of Urban Agriculture" and launched a campaign to promote urban agriculture efforts and increase community access to locally grown food. While the term "urban agriculture" may sound a little peculiar, the practice is quickly gaining ground as a sustainable method of feeding the world's cities. Urban agriculture is an innovative approach to growing food that allows urban communities to grow much of their food for themselves. There are many forms of urban agriculture:
- Cities have begun to transform unused spaces and vacant lots into productive community gardens designed to provide fresh, quality foods to underserved areas. Seattle has developed a number of community gardens designed to allow community members to have access to a plot of land available to grow crops for themselves and their community. SPU has an organic community garden of its own on 4th and Dravus. These gardens not only provide local and organic crops, but also provide a space for the community to be together.
- Homeowners are converting their yards into miniature farms, transforming a space with little function and many negative attributes (water usage, harmful fertilizers, upkeep) to a useful and attractive piece of land.
|Squire Park P-Patch community garden fasd|
Another great way to support sustainable agriculture is to visit your local farmers market. Seattle is blessed with a multitude of farmers markets in various neighborhoods taking place throughout the week. Farmers markets allow consumers to access seasonal foods grown by local farmers, most of whom use organic farming practices. And while you might not find a local pineapple stand, the Northwest does provide an outstanding variety of seasonal offerings. I stopped by the Ballard Farmers Market over the weekend, where vendors offered 50+ varieties of vegetables, bread and baked goods, cherries and other fruits, dairy products, meat, seafood, poultry - the list goes on.
Farmers markets embody a great sense of community. Local is the theme - from farmers to craftmakers to musicians, neighborhood markets ingrain a tremendous sense of place. There is no better place to find fresh, local, delicious food in Seattle, all the while getting to enjoy some of that summer sunshine!
Locally grown food benefits the local economy, insures against global food crises, reduces pollution from transportation, and provides a fresh and great tasting product. As consumers we are all empowered to have an effect on the way our food is produced. I encourage you to make informed decisions and help create a food system that will generate quality food for generations to come!