Approximately a 3 minute read
What we eat illuminates the relationship between us and our natural world. It also directly influences the way our living planet is used.
Industrialization has turned food into a commodity and cut the ties between growers, eaters, and ecosystems.
Before agriculture and food production became commercial industries, meals were made up of locally sourced ingredients.
Depending on the time and place, some of the ingredients were wild caught or wild harvested.
Others were raised or grown in gardens, were traded with a neighbor, or were purchased from nearby. A few came via trade with further away communities.
All of the growing, harvesting, storage and preparation was done right there in local fields, gardens and kitchens, often in a cooperative way that brought families together. The network of connections between the soil, growers, processors, and eaters, was unbroken.
There was relatively little packaging and labeling, there were no numbers or codes, and the nutrients harvested from the land were returned to it in an endless cycle of growth, decay, and regeneration.
That essentially describes what I call Real Food.
Today the giant machine of industry and its in-house science and technology have up-ended our food production and supply systems to such an extent that real food is no longer easy to come by. Depending on where you live and what your budget is, it may seem impossible to access.
But it's important to remember the slow, small, cumulative power that lies with us as decision makers. In our daily decisions about what to feed our families, lies the power to turn the ship.
Asking questions to help you identify Real Food
Eating and agriculture are inseparable: what you eat determines how land is used.
We already know a lot about how to weigh up if a package of food is natural enough to bring home, but there are more questions we need to learn to ask than just, "what's on the ingredient label?"
Questions like, "How did the production of this food effect the community and ecosystem it came from?"
"Does whoever is selling this food care about its impact; are they behaving like a responsible citizen?"
"Was it grown nearby and will I be eating it in it's natural season?"
The more of those kinds of questions you can answer yes to, the closer you are getting to a real food diet – a sustainable diet that will nourish not only you and your family, but other families and our living planet, also.
Will it be easy to sniff out these extra answers? No.
Do you need another task, another thing to research, another thing to pay attention to? No.
But it will get easier, just as assessing the ingredients is now something you can usually do with barely more than a pause and a glance at the back of the package.
Eating is an agricultural act
A sincere (not perfect) effort to progressively (not all at once) bring real food back to our kitchens is a very powerful way that we can make a difference.
Eating is an agricultural act."
Perhaps you live in a city, and you think you cannot influence the way that landowners and managers care for the land they control. Think again: what we choose to put on our forks directly influences how the living planet is used.