Sustainable agriculture refers to foods that are farmed and produced in such a way that is healthy for consumers and animals does not harm the environment is humane for workers respects animals provides a fair wage to the farmer and supports and enhances rural communities. It’s more than just organic.
One of the many good reasons to buy sustainable foods is that they are more fresh more nutritous and taste better than conventionally farmed foods. Did you know that broccoli loses about 62% of it’s flavonoids within 10 days of harvest? How old do you think that conventionally grown broccoli from California sitting in a northeast grocery store produce aisle is? Then consider how it might sit in your refrigerator before you eat it. My guess is that the broccoli from California sitting in your fridge for two days has lost a lot of its nutrients.
Did you know that organic produce has a higher nutrient content than conventionally grown? Did you know that pasture-raised birds produce eggs that have 10% less fat 34% less cholesterol 40% more vitamin A and four times more omega-3s than factory farmed birds? Did you know that the meat from grass fed cattle is lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids vitamin E and conjugated Linoleic Acid? This list goes on and on..
Then there is the pesticide factor. The EPA reports that pesticide use in the US increased from 900 million pounds in 1992 to about 940 million pounds in 2000. Not too good for our body burden. We can help reverse this trend by buying sustainable foods. In sustainable agriculture farmers either go 100% organic or practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which basically minimizes the use of pesticides to only when it's absolutely necessary.
In addition to all the above benefits I should also mention that sustainable agricultural practices are better for the environment than conventional methods protect regional farmland from development and support the local economy.
Lucky for us with spring comes the local farmer’s markets farmer’s stands and CSAs. In order to arm yourself with the information necessary to purchase the most nutritious foods in your area check out the Yale Sustainable Food Project’s Sustainable Food Purchasing Guide. It is a guide that was put together for institutions to implement sustainable food purchasing practices but it can benefit us too. It provides great information on what sustainable agriculture is the problems and dangers of conventional growing and the questions to ask a seller to determine if the food you are buying is from a farm that practices sustainable agriculture. Once you have reviewed the guide and have a good handle on these topics check out Local Harvest to find a farmer’s market farm or CSA in your area. Most open in April or May and run through early fall.
As the sun starts to peak out a bit more and the days begin to warm make your way to a local farm stand and start treating your family (and their bodies) to local goodies by making the transition from conventional to sustainable. Here are a few local markets to get you started (listings obtained from Local Harvest please check for updates before venturing out!):MOUNT KISCO INDOOR FARMERS’ MARKET
For listings nationwide visit localharvest.org.