Tuesday, February 4, 2014

People Are Disconnected From Food Production

Time and again these past few years I've been reminded just how far the general public has become disconnected from where and how their food is produced. Food comes from a supermarket for most people. Fresh food might also come from a Farmers Market for a small few. I am seeing that people who get their food via shopping have some major misconceptions about food, farms, and the food selling-distribution system. Frankly, to me it's scary. 

Generally people seem to view commercial food as being safe and backyard garden food as being suspect. I cannot agree with this viewpoint in any way, shape, or form. People today simply do not know about food production. 
(Homegrown radishes.)

I'm surprised that nowadays many people cannot even identify a food plant. All across the country residential housing areas ban food plants from front yards, apartment complexes, urban balconies. But savvy gardeners have escaped detection by using decorative food plants because the "plant police" are simply too far removed from food production to know what they are looking at. How did our society drift that far off line that a person can't recognize a cucumber plant growing in a hanging basket? Nor see that currant tomatoes or mini pear tomatoes are still tomato plants? That frilly parsley isn't a flowering border plant? I've had people on my farm that asked me what kind of plant the leaf lettuce was. On the other hand, I had to stop a person from eating the "little tomato berries" he picked off the potato plants. Another tried to sample and eat a "stringbean" off a jicama plant. People no longer know. 
(These are avocados. Did you recognize them?)

I often visit people's fledgling food gardens to help them solve problems. I've quickly learned that people in general have lost the knowledge to grow their own food. I've seen gardens with 6 corn plants planted in a single row with plants two foot apart. The gardener has no idea why he isn't getting corn, plus is totally shocked to discover he'll only get one ear per plant. They will plant one pea plant every 6 inches and won't understand what's wrong with that. They blame "bad seed", 'bad seed company" rather than their own lack of knowledge. 

Some people believe that if food comes in contact with dirt or bugs that's it no longer safe to eat. They don't realize that most supermarket food is incredibly dirty when it comes out of the field and must be washed and is required to be treated with disinfectant before sale. Disinfectant is another issue. Commercial food today is often extremely contaminated, making mandatory disinfecting the only way to curb the number of food responsible illnesses and deaths. Gone are the days of safely eating unwashed produce. I'll eat out of my own garden while I work but wouldn't even consider doing that with commercial veggies. Our food industry has contaminated much of its own farm land. Those farms contaminated their land themselves and now we have to live with it. 
(This meat doesn't resemble an animal at all. And it's most likely horribly contaminated 
with assorted bacteria! Plus it's been treated to make it look pinker than natural.) 

Many people are becoming aware that unwashed vegetables can make you sick. But they don't know the facts behind it. Therefore they are afraid of eating the veggies they grow in their own yards. 

I see that most people don't realize that commercial vegetables get treated in more ways than simply rinsed in bleach water. Those beautiful veggies and fruits lined up on store tables are often fumigated with fungicides and sprayed with bactericides. And no, they are not rinsed off. Some are stored in nitrogen gas, some are radiated. Many are coated with waxes and other coatings. Our natural food isn't so natural anymore. 

Most "fresh" vegetables in stores are not all that fresh. They are often many days old by the time they are purchased. They look good because of the chemical treatments they receive, the cold temperature treatments, the temperature and humidity regulated shipping containers, and that fact that the variety was specifically developed to look good, store long, and ship well. Forget taste and nutrition. 

I'm seeing people who only recognize commercial varieties of their favorite vegetables and fruits. Any variation of it becomes unrecognizable or unacceptable. Stores don't carry much in the way of uncommon variations. When was the last time you saw purple broccoli at the supermarket? Red stringbeans? Pink sweet corn? Blue peas? Yellow beets? White tomatoes? People look at that stuff and don't recognize it as food. 
(Image from veggies-only.blgspot.com).           Purple Broccoli

We have a whole generation of people who generally won't accept fresh produce as food. That's truly scary. If it isn't processed, they don't eat it. That group wouldn't know if a tomato grew on a tree, a bush, or a vine. Nor would they care. They would only eat them cooked or already cut up. Surely not fresh off a garden vine. 

So far I've only addressed produce. Then there's eggs, meat, fish. Ever investigate commercial fishing? You'd most likely be appalled. And eggs. What really goes on would shock and gag most people. And the livestock industry is truly ghastly. Livestock processing would turn many people into vegans if they knew about it. Perhaps I shouldn't say "knew". The vast majority of people opt to actively ignore it, they do not want to know. The choose to stay ignorant. 
(Where chicken wings really come from! )

Our society is growing further and further distant from the farm. Not only do we as a society ignore what goes on in our food production, we also go steps further and mandate what we can and cannot do to grow food for ourselves. As I mentioned, home food production is outright banned in many residential situations. That really disturbs me. As a people we are losing the right to grow our own food. And we are now starting to see situations where governments and industry are trying to control what varieties of things we may grow. There is talk of banning open pollinated varieties and heirlooms. There have been attempts to ban "not acceptable" livestock. Now I'm not talking about these regulations covering commercial food production. No, they are including home production! What you want to grow to feed to yourself! 
(This is fish. Really. Doesn't look like it came out of the ocean.) 

Governments are demanding to know what you are growing and producing. Our own government has been gathering this information from commercial farms for decades, threatening legal action against farmers who don't comply. But the past several years our government has been trying to implement methods to extend this to independent non-commercial farms and growers....including the home gardener. There was a recent attempt at the National Animal Identification System, which by the way exists in Europe, where every person having a food animal  (horses included) would have to have a GPS identified registered location and abide by stringent regulations. Required records include submitting reports every time the animal left the location and returned, when it died or was sold including all the details, if it gave birth plus all the details and registration of the offspring, and mandatory microchip identification. Plus officials have the right to enter your premises at anytime without notice, demand to review your records, and impound all your livestock if even one animal wasn't in compliance. Super scary. 

I attended a seminar in Waimea a few years ago put in by an island sheep group, but the County of Hawaii was involved. A form was required to be completed where you were suppose to tell them how many acres your "farm" was , how many food animals you had and what species, how many and what kind of produce you were growing. All sorts of warning bells went off inside my head, knowing what was happening in Europe. My form somehow got lost in the course of the day, never turned in. But I was dismayed to see how many of the attendees were as docile and easily lead as the sheep they raised. So many people turned in their forms. Was I being paranoid.....or only cautious? I haven't yet seen anything done with that information that the government gathered, but if some government office had indeed acted on a piece of regulation, it would have been easy for them to know right where to go to enforce it. 

Oh, I've slipped off the topic. Sorry. I get rather passionate sometimes when ideas get into my head. 

So where does all your own food come from? Do you know its story from where it was grown/raised to how it ended up on your table? Do you even know what country it came from? Do you think that foreign countries follow the same rules that our USDA enforces on US producers? 


  1. You are right on - no need to apologize! Keep your information private at every opportunity. Hard times are directly ahead for everyone, and only the few who already know how to be self-sufficient will get through the bad time. I have no expectation that the government will help. I just hope my children will realize the same knowledge, and learn that, too. Put some seeds away that you know all grow, and save a few every year. The do lose germination, so five years later, they may have a 90% fail rate. Better by far to be safe than sorry.

  2. I heard on the news today that the government is really concerned about the California drought situation. Predictions include loss of farmland due to loss of irrigation and increase in food prices at the store. So Barry, you are right on! Time to save seeds and start growing some of own food!