by Jenae Ramos, BTC Student
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
What exactly are we eating? Where did the food come from? How exactly was the produce treated? Unless we buy local and organic, we may not be entirely sure. So for those who prefer a life that’s fresh like natural produce instead of a life like overrated chocolate, farmers markets and local produce are a safer bet than the typical grocery store. We know the apples haven’t fallen from a tree thousands of miles away, and the eggs came from happy chickens that roam free.
Sustainable vs. Industrial
Comparing your local farmer with the commercial farmer, you see there’s a difference in values. You can associate the local farmer with more sustainable values; he or she understands the health, social, and environmental implications involved. Commercial farmers spray pesticides that aren’t safe to breathe and distribute produce that’s cheaper in nutrients and price.
According to GRACE Communications Foundation, sustainable farming is dedicated to environment conservation, public health, community building, and animal welfare. This is farming we can rely on for the present and the future, concerned not only with food production, but also the future of food production, the environment, and the community.
In terms of health benefits, organic produce—as opposed to commercial produce—is good for consumers and children according to Beyond Pesticides. Organic produce is more nutritious than commercial produce—no surprise there. What you may not have realized is that organic produce lacks both toxic and pesticide residues. Organic food, ever nutritious, has more antioxidants and has pharmacologic properties like anticancer.
With industrial farming, imagine it’s everything sustainable farming isn’t. Its industrial crop production soaks in unnatural pesticides that threaten public health. Industrial livestock production means raising livestock in tight, indoor spaces and polluting the environment with the exorbitant amount of waste according to GRACE Communications Foundation.
The Freshest Food Doesn’t Go the Distance
On average, food travels 1,300 miles from where it was grown to where it will be consumed according to FoodRoutes Network. Most of the fruits and veggies come from California, Florida, and Washington and get to the supermarket one to two weeks after they’re harvested. These same fruits and veggies are optimized for the travel duration and the harvesting equipment rather than taste.
On the other hand, we also have the option of eating local goodness from farmers markets and local farmers who may also use sustainable practices. According to Forbes, farmers markets have continued to increase with over 8,100 markets in the United States. Farmers markets have more than doubled in the past 10 years according to The Guardian. More and more consumers—no pun intended—are more concerned with supporting the local farmers and getting fresher food.
For other businesses, they’ve looked to narrowing the distances from farm to grocery store. For instance, BrightFarms that develops and runs greenhouses on top of or near grocery stores according to Forbes. It’s clear that the freshest food doesn’t go the distance and that the freshest food is better for the community and the environment.
UMD Foodies Unite
Here at the University of Maryland – College Park, we refuse to fall behind on the regional food system trends. We’ve got The Farmers Market at Maryland, Green Tidings, and recently Terp Farm. Foodies, students, faculty, and staff alike can enjoy fresher food from local farmers without the middleman and the questionable pesticides.
Taking a stroll through our farmers market, I like to see if there are any new vendors or new goodies to buy. Apples, decadent brownies, artisan bread, and more sit under various tents that stand in front of Cole Fieldhouse. It’s a nice way to buy food. I talk to the vendors. They ask if I’m interested in trying a sample. I take a sample as they tell me the process of making their product. There’s nothing commercial about my time at the market. I enjoy learning about what exactly I’m buying, and I’m always happy to buy this specific type of apple at the market, which I can’t ever find anywhere else.
I admit I sound picky, but when you go to a local farmer, he’s more involved with having a wider variety of produce than the grocery store with only three kinds of apples. The point is I can ask the source himself how he’s grown his produce, what kind of According to FoodRoutes Network, most produce you find in supermarkets are of a small variety.
At the end of the farmers market, you will most likely find the Green Tidings food truck, which prides itself on serving local and regional food. It also grows some of its own herbs from on-campus gardens. Since its first run in June last year, its sustainable cuisine has delighted many students and faculty on campus and proves that fresh food is worth it.
Local produce is also a popular idea to offices within UMD like Department of Dining Services, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Office of Sustainability. These organizations came together to launch Terp Farm. It’s the university’s new sustainable farm only 15 miles away from campus that will supply fresh produce to UMD’s dining halls and the Green Tidings food truck. Students from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture and the Department of Communications will also help design and market the farm initiative.
A Food Movement That’s Growing
UMD continues to support the local food movement. Its students, staff, and faculty have realized the importance of fresher food and sustainable operations. It’s one of many colleges and universities who identify themselves as figures in the movement for a better food system. By buying and consuming food from local, sustainably run farms, we improve our health, our community, and our local economy.
Each year, colleges and universities pay $5 billion for food according to Food Day. If we spend that much on food, let’s continue supporting what’s local and sustainable.