”The nutrition that your fruits and vegetables provide you is only as good as the nutrition you provide your soil.” I said this publically on July 17, 1992, at a community garden in Los Angeles. This statement is more important today than it was then, and it will be even more important in another 20 years.
You are what you eat
Our politicians and leaders of the agribusiness and food industries assure us that the American food supply is the highest quality and the most nutritious in the world, that we Americans enjoy the greatest food choices, and that our food is also the cheapest and most convenient. Let’s analyze this.
Our fruits and vegetables are bred not for flavor, but to fit the requirements of a uniform maturity date and adaption to mechanical harvest. They are harvested well before peak ripeness to better withstand transport, an average of 1500 miles to the consumer. Petro-chemicals, Insecticides, and fungicides trick our senses and mask the basic insipidity of mediocre ingredients. The stark contrast between the supermarket tomato and the home garden tomato is proverbial. But have you tried a supermarket egg side by side with a free-range egg? Have you eaten naturally soured cream from a farm cow, so thick you have to spoon it? Have you found anything that comes close among the pseudo-foods on display in the refrigerated supermarket case? If we think our food supply is top culinary quality, it is either because we have not been exposed to real, traditional foods, or because we are simply not paying attention.
Home Grown Nutrition
The national diet has actually been declining in nutrition for decades. It is produced in soils of dwindling fertility, and processed to the last degree, laced with food additives and a residue of crop pesticides, growth hormones, and antibiotics. If ”we are what we eat,” our soaring incidence of degenerative disease should come as no surprise. What we should find particularly disturbing is the growing incidence among children of allergies, attention deficit and behavior disorders, obesity, and most shockingly, degenerative conditions that we once thought of as illnesses of age, such as heart disease, cancer and adult-onset diabetes.
It is true that we enjoy enormous food choices, but those ”choices” are largely an illusion. How many people do you know would choose to eat chicken that had soaked in feces? Yet that is chicken from high-speed processing plants utilizing robotic kill lines, i.e., most chicken being offered at the supermarket, fast-food restaurants, and in frozen TV dinners. Would you prefer not to consume powdered milk, based on your reading about its dangers? Its addition to skim and nonfat milk is industry standard, meaning everybody does it, but FDA regulations do not require inclusion of ”powdered milk” on the label because, it is industry standard, that is, everybody does it!
More and more processed foods on offer in the supermarket are not foods in the traditional sense at all, but imitations whipped up from an extremely narrow ingredients base, many of which have never before been eaten in the evolution of our species. Truly, we have devised a massive laboratory experiment, and we are the guinea pigs. Consider, for example, a package label which tells us the enclosed ”food”’ is 98 percent ”water, corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and high fructose corn syrup.” (The remaining 2 percent of ingredients is the usual incomprehensible list of additives.) What is the food that is being labeled here? It’s impossible to say, isn’t it? None of us has ever sat at a meal and asked, ”Would you pass the hydrogenated vegetable oil and high fructose corn syrup, please” and indeed, we would not recognize either ingredient if passed. Reading the label, none of us has a clue what this ”food” would look like or how we might use it in a meal. Furthermore, however limited our knowledge of biochemistry, isn’t it clear there is absolutely no nutritional value in the contents of that container, other than sheer raw calories (fats and sugars) to burn in the body’s cells, or convert to fat?
Study and Read the Label
Become a student of supermarket labels. You will find plenty of other foods with the same, or close to the same, base of highly processed ingredients. “Well, at least our food is cheap,” we might observe. It is true that Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than almost any other national population. However, ”cheap” turns out to be an illusion as well, when we consider that food is cheap because the true costs of production are ”externalized” in terms of environmental pollution, subsidizing of long-distance transport of food, and severe economic exploitation of farmers and agricultural workers. And our ”cheap food” turns out to be expensive indeed if, as seems likely, it is implicated in the growing incidence of diet-related illnesses.
So in the end, it seems that truly the only positive thing our food supply has to offer is convenience. That is, the industry offers us not deeply satisfying, nutritious, and wholesome food, but relief from the ”drudgery” of food preparation, the opportunity to ”fuel the machine” with the lowest expenditure of time in our busy, high-speed, mobile lives.
If we cannot hope to buy better food in the supermarket, what alternatives are open to us? There are two. For many of us, the opportunity exists to produce at least some of our food in our own back yards, probably more than we might at first think possible. And we should buy food grown by local farmers on small organic farms, that is, directly from the producer who is personally known to us.
Now, in those terms, taking together foods which you raise in your own backyard and those you buy from a known producer, you have at least made a start on a healthy lifestyle. If all the food on your table is from the industrial food system, please begin thinking of ways you might introduce some food production into your backyard (or even back deck), or where you might find local sources for wholesome foods. If you’ve already made a start, what is the percentage of your food that comes from one of these sources? Twenty-five percent? Fifty percent?
Every year, you should increase the amount of food on your table which you raise yourself or purchased from local growers. Despite a heavy work schedule and a long commute, it is worth the effort. Fresh organic foods are the cornerstone for living a healthy life. If you like meat, buy it from a sustainable organic source. Grass fed beef is absolutely wonderful. Free-range chicken simply is much better for you.
Remember the relationship between the health of your garden soil and the health of your family. That is, if the soil is nutritious, so will be the crop that is grown in it. Dr. Earth® organic fertilizer feeds the soil that feeds your family.
Milo Lou Shammas
Founder and Formulator