Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Next Bubble? The Environment & Our Food

We've had a housing bubble, a finance bubble, and now, judging from all the media on this topic, I think we may be due for a food sustainability bubble too.

When I think about food, I don't always think of the complex systems at work behind the scenes. I simply think about what tastes good, and focus on enjoying my meal-time experiences. Feeling economically challenged by the recession, I sometimes worry about the cost of food too. But behind my day-to-day experiences, I'm starting to think there's another bubble looming, and this bubble could pop right in my kitchen, and in a way that no amount of stimulus money will be able to fix.

This week's Time Magazine cover story Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food by Bryan Walsh does an excellent job at describing the situation. In his article, he talks about environmental damage caused by the downsides of modern agriculture, government subsidies that often support our current system at the expense of small farmers, and emerging repercussions on the health of the nation.

Michael Pollan talks in even greater detail about these issues in both his books. In Defense of Food, focuses on the tremendous complexities of food science and nutrition, politics and our food policies, food marketing, and the interconnections of how all these factors affect everyday people.

The movie Food Inc. also illustrates a lot of other issues in our food system, and the consequences for farmers (great losses) and consumers (a loss of health). Food Inc. also highlights some bright spots like Walmart going organic.

If like me, you'd like to learn more about the sustainability of the current food system, you can also check out these articles:

Giving Earth That Worn-Down Feeling
By Henry Fountain, Dot Earth Blog on The New York Times

Apocalypse Later? I'm Going Local Now
by Doug Fine, Washington Post

Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch
Michael Pollan, New York Times

Now that I've started to garden for myself, I've developed a broader understanding of my food. It's good to know that so many voices are starting to bring attention to where our food comes from and how this might affect our future.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Trip to the Farmer's Market

One of our favorite weekend activities is a visit to the farmers market. Here in Portland we're lucky enough to have several farmers markets operating all around town and all through the week. We think the Saturday market is the best though. It's huge. The market starts up in early spring, and despite the chill, draws a good number of people. By late July, that ‘good number of people’ turns into quite a crowd. Often it gets hard to move and navigate through the press of bodies.

One of the best things about visiting any farmers market (aside from all the great food!), is getting to meet the farmers. When you visit a booth or stand, invariably you learn a little something about their farm and their operation. It's fun, and it's also very different from going to the grocery store, where the most you usually learn about the produce you're buying and how it's grown is limited to simply the state or country where it came from.

And it's also nice supporting local farmers.

In order to make Veggie Trader a better service for everyone we added a Local Farmers and Farmer’s Markets section this week to the Veggie Trader listings. Many small farmers have posted listings on the site over the past few months, and now they have a place where people looking specifically for local farm produce can quickly find them. This new section is also a great place for anyone who runs a farmer’s market to announce it to the public. Actually, you don't have to be running a farmers market to post a listing about one, in your area. Learn more here. We hope and expect this section to grow in the coming months.