When I was a child, I knew where my food came from. It came from our garden, from our chickens, from the farmers’ market, from the local butcher or fishmonger. If we bought staples, we knew the companies who made them, and we trusted them. This was before the arrival of the corporate farm model, and before our food was adulterated. We ate fresh, real food, with a minimum of preservatives and sodium.
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After World War II, America changed from an agricultural economy to an industrial one. Children who once worked on the family farm left to attend college and join the workforce in the cities, or left for a blue-collar job in the factories. Small farms, deprived of their natural workforce, began to struggle; corporations moved in and the era of the corporate farm was born. This was a bad move; corporations were interested in high yields at low cost, and instituted the use of commercial pesticides and commercial fertilizers to achieve their goal. Pesticides ran off into the ground water, and made their way into the rivers and streams, and eventually into a gulf or an ocean. These pesticides either killed the fish or mutated them; once the effects were known, the worst ones were banned, but the environment took a long time to recover. The fertilizers increased crop yields, but also ran off into the ground water, and created zones of fresh water inside the salt waters of the Gulf of Mexico. These ‘dead zones’ are devoid of salt water life; as the dead zone increases in size, the shrimpers must journey farther out into the Gulf to find shrimp; this drives up the cost of fishing, and the cost of the catch.
Before the advent of corporate farming, farmers knew how to farm; they understood their environment, and how to farm without harming it. Corporate farms have no such concerns; their focus is on the highest profit for the lowest cost. Corporate farming techniques have been in place for so long, those farmers who moved from family farms to corporate ones have forgotten how to farm. Independent farmers still understand how to farm within the season and within the environment, but corporate farmers wear out their land and pollute the water system.
Corporate fish farms raise fish once caught in the wild. However, the fish raised on a corporate farm are generally more polluted than their counterparts in the wild. Corporate fish farms crowd the ponds with too many fish; they then have to give the fish antibiotics to counteract the diseases stemming from overcrowding and the pollution from the fishes’ waste products. This leads to drug-resistant strains of bacteria, and to large numbers of diseased fish.
In recent years, a backlash has occurred among farmers and consumers. Consumers want to know where and how their food was raised, and they want their children to understand food doesn’t come from a grocery store – it comes from a farm.
Farmers want to farm in ways that don’t harm the environment, and produce food without harmful chemicals. So, the farm-to-table movement was born. It encourages consumers to purchase their produce, meat, and poultry from local farmers, where they can know how the food was raised, and how the meat was butchered.
Local restaurants have given the movement a boost, by buying from the local producers instead of the corporate conglomerates.
The farm-to-table movement gives the consumer control over his or her diet; they know where and how their food is produced, and they have someone they can contact directly if there is a problem. This movement educates children on where their food comes from, and why fresh and local is far better than processed and distant.
The farm-to-table movement is giving Americans the chance to eat fresh, healthy food again, as opposed to processed and preserved. We can take back our health from the FDA and the corporations, and live like we were supposed to, as free individuals.