Eating Inspiration from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Barbara Kingsolver and her family decided to move to Virginia and make their home a small family farm that would be a year of adventure learning to live off the land as locally as possible. This book is a collection of their experiences to inspire others to think critically about our food system and eat accordingly, which has the power to change our world for the better. I picked up a copy at a local thrift store a couple years ago, underlined and highlighted at least half of it, typed up some favorite quotes to save because it seemed as sacred to me, later lost the book, recently found the quotes I saved and would like to share them with you here because we could all use some inspiration to chew on..

*cover photo from

“Eaters must understand, how we eat determines how the world is used”.

“The more we know about our food system, the more we are called into complex choices”.

“A taste for better stuff is cultivated only through experience”. 

“The big guys have so completely taken over the rules of the games, it’s hard to see how food systems really work, but this criticism hits the nail right on the pointy end: it’s perfectly backwards”. 

“In our country it’s a reasonable presumption that unless you have gone out of your way to find good food, you’ll be settling for mediocre at best”.

“It’s hardly possible to exaggerate the cynicism of this industry. In international reports, Monsanto notes ‘growers who save seed from one year to the next’ as significant competitors, and allocates a $10 million budget for investigating and prosecuting seed savers”. 

“Were it not for these animals that can thrive outdoors, and the healthy farms that maintain them, I would have stuck with tofu-burgers indefinitely. That wasn’t a bad life, but we’re also enjoying this one”. 

“Conventional methods are definitely producing huge quantities of corn, wheat, and soybeans, but not to feed the poor. Most of it becomes animal feed for meat production, or the ingredients of processed foods for wealthier consumers who are already getting plenty of calories”. 

“Having no self-sustaining bloodlines to back up the industry is like having no gold standard to underpin paper currency. Maintaining a naturally breeding poultry flock is a rebellion, at the most basic level, against the wholly artificial nature of how foods are produced”.

“Modern U.S, consumers now get to taste less than 1 percent of the vegetable varieties that were grown here a century ago. Those old-timers now lurk only in backyard gardens and on farms that specialize in direct sales- if they survive at all. Many heirlooms have been lost entirely”.

“Waiting for the quality experience seems to be the constitutional article that has slipped from American food custom. If we mean to reclaim it, asparagus seems like a place to start. And if the object of our delayed gratification is a suspected aphrodisiac? That’s the sublime paradox of a food culture: restraint equals indulgence”.

“We don’t know beans about beans. Asparagus, potatoes, turkey drumsticks- you name it, we don’t know how the world makes it… What  we all don’t know about farming could keep the farmers laughing until the cows come home. Except that they are barely making a living, while the rest of us play make-believe about the important part being the grocery store”.

“What the fad diets don’t offer, though, is any sense of national and biological integrity. A food culture is not something that gets sold to people. It arises out of a place, a soil, a climate, a history, a temperament, a collective sense of belonging. Every set of fad-diet rules is essentially framed in the negative, dictating what you must give up. Together they’ve helped us form powerfully negative associations with the very act of eating”. 

“It’s tempting to reach for melons, red peppers, tomatoes, and other late-summer delights before the summer even arrives. But it’s actually possible to wait, celebrating each season when it comes, not fretting about its being absent at all other times because something else good is at hand. If many of us would view this style of eating as deprivation, that’s only because we’ve grown accustomed to the botanically outrageous condition of having everything, always”. 

“The fact is, though, millions of families have food pledges hanging over their kitchens- subtle rules about going to extra trouble, cutting the pasta by hand, rolling the sushi, making with care instead of buying on the cheap. Though they also may be busy with jobs and modern life, people all over the world still take time to follow footways that bring their families happiness and health”.

“It does not seem exactly radical to want to turn this tide, starting with lunch from the neighborhood. Nor is it an all-or-nothing proposition. If every restaurant got just ten percent of its food from local farmers, the infrastructure of corporate food would collapse”.

“If efficacy is the issue, resources go furthest when people produce their own food, near to where it is consumed. Many hunger-relief organizations provide assistance not in the form of bags of food, but in programs that teach and provide support technology for appropriate, sustainable farming. These programs do more than alleviate hunger for a day and send a paycheck to a multinational. They provide a livelihood to the person in need, addressing the real root of hunger, which is not about food production, but poverty”.

“The USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) has a Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program for purchasing local food, It provides coupons good for fresh produce purchased from farms, farmer’s markets, and roadside stands”.

“But it’s also true what the strategists say about hearts and minds- you have to win them both. We will change our ways significantly as a nation not when some law tells u we have to (remember Prohibition?) but when we want to. During my family’s year of conscious food choices, the most important thing we’d learned were all about that: the wanting too. Our fretful minds had started us on a project of abstinence from industrial food, but we finished it with our hearts. We were not counting down the days until the end, because we didn’t want to go back”.

“We were still going  to the supermarket, but the receipts looked different these days”.

“The ultimate unnatural product of genetic engineering is a ‘terminator gene’ that causes a crop to commit genetic suicide after one generation, just in case some maverick farmer might want to save seed from his expensive, patented crop, instead of by purchasing it again from the company that makes it. By contrast to both GM and hybridization, open-pollinated heirlooms are created the same way natural selection does it: by saving and reproducing specimens that show the best characteristics of their generation, thus gradually increasing those traits in the population. Once bred to a given quality, these varieties yield the same characteristics again when their seeds are saved and grown, year after year. Like sunshine, heirloom seeds are of little interest to capitalism if they can’t be patented or owned”.

“A process as complex as sustainable agriculture can’t be fully mandated or controlled’ the government might as well try to legislate happy marriage. Corporate growers, if their only motive is profit, will find ways to follow the letter or organic regulations while violating their spirit. But ‘locally grown’ is a denomination whose meaning is incorruptible. Sparing the transportation fuel, packaging, and unhealthy additives is a compelling part of the story, bu the plot goes well beyond that. Local food is a handshake deal in a community gathering place. It involves farmers with first names, who show up week after week. It means an open door policy on the fields, where neighborhood buyers are welcome to come have a look, and pick their food from the vine. Local is farmers growing trust”. 

“A food culture of anti-eating is worse than useless. People hold to their food customs because of the positives: comfort, nourishment, heavenly aromas”.

“In fact, all of the world’s farms currently produce enough food to make every person on the globe fat. Even though 800 million people are chronically underfed (6 will die of hunger as you read this paragraph), it’s because they lack money and opportunity, not because food is unavailable in their countries. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that current food production can sustain world food needs for the 8 billion people who are projected to inhabit the planet in 2030”. 

“Tying my family’s nutritional fortunes to the seasons did not really involve any risk for us. But it did acquaint us in new ways with what seasons mean, and how they matter. The subtle downward pulse of temperatures and day lengths created a physical rhythm in our lives, with beats and rests: long light, long muscles; shorter days, shorter work, and cold that drew us deeper into thoughts and plans, under plaster ceilings instead of an open sky”.

“When we give it a thought, we mostly consider the food industry to be a thing rather than a person. We obligingly give 85 cents of our every food dollar to that thing, too- the processors, marketers, and transporters. And we complain about the high price of organic meats and vegetables that might send back more Han three nickels per buck to the farmers: those actual humans putting seeds in the fields at dawn casting their shadows upon our sustenance. There seems to be some reason we don’t want to compensate or think about these hardworking people. In the grocery store checkout corral, we’re more likely to learn which TV stars are secretly fornicating than to inquire as to the whereabouts of the people who grew the cucumbers and melons in our carts. This drift away from our agricultural roots is a natural consequence of migration from the land to the factory, which is as old as the Industrial Revolution”. 

“Doesn’t the Federal Farm Bill help out all these poor farmers? No. It used to, but ever since its inception just after the Depression the Federal Farm Bill has slowly been altered by agribusiness lobbyists. It is now largely corporate welfare. The formula for subsidies is based on crop type and volume: from 1995 to 2003, three-quarters of all disbursements went to the top-grossing 10 percent of growers. In 1999, over 70 percent of subsidies went for just two commode crops: corn and soybeans. These supports promote industrial-scale production, not small diversified farms, and in fact create an environment of competition in which subsidized commodity producers get help crowding the little guys out of business. It is this, rather than any improved efficiency or productiveness, that has allowed corporations to take over farming in the United States, leaving fewer than a third of our farms still run by families. But those family-owned farms are the ones more likely to use sustainable techniques, protect the surrounding environment, maintain green spaces, use crop rotations and management for pest and weed control, and apply fewer pesticides”. 

“Supermarkets only accept properly packaged, coded, and labeled produce that conforms to certain standards of color, size, and shape. Melons can have no stem attached, cucumbers most be no less than six inches, no more than eight. Crooked eggplants need not apply. Every crop yields a significant portion f perfectly edible but small or oddly shaped vegetables that are ‘trash’ by the worlds standards. It takes as much work to grow a crooked vegetable as a straight one, and the nutritional properties are identical. Workers at the packing house were as distressed as the farmers to see boxes of these rejects piling up into mountains of wasted food. Poverty and hunger are not abstractions in our part of the world; throwing away good food makes no sense”.

“At the beginning of World War II when Germany vowed to serve the U.K. by blocking food imports with U-boats, Raeburn, an agricultural economist, organized the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign. British citizens rallied, planting crops in backyards, parks, golf courses, vacant lots, schoolyards, and even the moat of the Tower of London”.

“These urban gardens quickly produced twice the tonnage of food previously imported, about 40 percent of the nation’s food supply, and inspired the ‘Victory Garden’ campaign in the United States. When duty called, these city farmers produced. A similar sense of necessity is driving a current worldwide growth of urban-centered food production. In developing countries where numbers of urban poor are growing, spontaneous gardening on available land is providing substantial food… In addition to providing fresh local produce, gardens like these serve as air filters, hep recycle wastes, absorb rainfall, present pleasing green spaces, alleviate loss of land to development, provide food security, reduce fossil fuel consumption, provide jobs, educate kids, and revitalize communities. Urban areas cover 2 percent of the earth’s surface but consumed 75 percent of its resources. Urban gardens can help reduce these flat-footed ecological footprints. Now we just need to promote jingles as good as the ones for John Raeburn’s campaign: ‘Dig! Dig! Dig! And your muscles will grow big’.

“Healthier eating generally begins with taking one or two giant steps back from the processed-foods aisle. Thus, the ubiquitous foodie presumptions about fresh-is-good, frozen-is-bad, and salads every day. I’ve enjoyed that program myself, marketing it as progress from the tinned green beans and fruit cocktail of my childhood era when produce aisles didn’t have so much of everything all the time. While declining to return to the canned-pear-half-with-cottage-cheese cookery I learned in high school Home Ec, I’ve reconsidered some of my presumptions. Getting over the frozen-foods snobbery is important. The broccoli and greens from our freezer stand in just fine for fresh sales, not just nutritionally but aesthetically”. 

“It doesn’t cost a fortune, in other words. Nor does it require a pickup truck, or a calico bonnet. Just the unique belief that summer is the right time to go to the fresh market with cash in hand and say to some vendors: I’ll take all you have. It’s an entirely reasonable impulse, to stock up on what’s in season”.

“Three-quarters of the way through our locavore year, the process was becoming its own reward for us. We were jonesing for a few things, certainly, including time off: occasionally I clanged dirty pot lis together in frustration and called kitchen strikes. But more often than not, dinnertime called me into the kitchen for the comfort of predictable routines, as respite from the baked-on intellectual residue or work and life that is inevitably messier than pots and pans. In a culture that assigns nil prestige to domestic work, I usually self-deprecate when anyone comments on my gardening and cooking-from-scratch lifestyle. I explain that I have to do something brainless to unwind from my work, and I don’t like TV. But the truth is, I enjoy this so-called brainless work. I like the kind of family I can raise on this kind of food… We also had saved by eating mostly at home, doing our own cooking, but that isn’t figured into the tally. Our costs, beyond seeds, chicken feed, and our own labor, had been minimal”.

“Egg and meat industries in the United States take some care not to publicize specifics about how they raise animals. Phrases like ‘all natural’ on packaged meat in supermarkets don’t necessarily mean the cow or chicken agrees. Animals in CAFOs live under enormous physiological stress… On the other hand, if cattle remain on pasture right to the end, that kind of beef is called ‘grass finished’. The differences between this and CAFO beef are not just relevant to how kindly you feel about animals: meat and eggs of pastured animals also have a measurably different nutrient composition. A lot of recent research has been published on this subject, which is slowly reaching the public. USDA studies found much lower levels of saturated fats and higher vitamin E, beta-carotene, and omega-3 levels in meat from cattle fattened on pasture grasses (their natural diet), compared with CAFO animals… Free-range grazing is not just kinder to the animals and the surrounding environment; it produces an entirely different product. With that said, I leave the decision to you. Pasture-finished meat is increasingly available, and free-range eggs are now sold almost everywhere”.

“Of course local eating gets trickier in wintertime. Fresh fruits and vegetables are rare or just one then, for most of us. In the colder months we have to think roots, not fruits. Potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, celeriac and winter squash cover the full spectrum of color”.

“The blanched, frozen vegetables needed only a brief steaming to be table-ready, and the dried vegetables were easy to throw into the Crock-Pot with the chicken stock we made and froze after every roasted bird. For several full-steam-ahead weeks last summer, in countless different ways, we’d made dinner ahead. What do we eat in January? Everything… Eating locally in winter is easy. But the time to think about that would be in August”. 

“As far removed as most of us are form the processes of growing and preparing our food, it makes a certain kind of sense to see food as the enemy. It’s very natural to fear the unknown. The first step towards valuing and trusting food is probably eating food that has some integrity. People who hold their traditions of food preparation and presentation in high regard don’t tend to bargain-shop for cheap calories. Associating food with emotional comfort can lead to a life of scary habits and pitfalls, if the training ground is candy bars for good report cards and suckers for bravery during a booster shot. But there are other ways to go. Some of my happiest family memories involve making and eating elaborate meals for special occasions. Food turns events into celebrations. Its not just about the food, but the experience of creating and then consuming it. People need families and communities for this kind of experience”.

“I was forced to get creative. The first step, shopping, is actually easier. When you peruse the farmer’s market for fresh produce, the options are clear. You don’t miss what’s not there, either… As the seasons change, different fruits and vegetables come and go, so as a shopper you learn a get-it-while-you-can mentality… The key to consuming enough produce and reaping maximum nutritional benefits is planning meals around whatever you have. This presents opportunities to get inventive in the kitchen and try new things, like stuffed zucchini. How many spinach dishes can you have in one week without getting sick of it? When working with fresh ingredients, the answer is, a lot!”

“The opposite of work is play, also an active verb. It could be tennis or bird-watching, so long as it’s meditative and makes you feel better afterward. Growing sunflowers and beans is like that, for some of us. Cooking is like that. So is canning tomatoes, and making mozzarella. Doing all of the above with my kids feels like family life in every happy sense. When people see the size of our garden or the stocks in our pantry and shake their heads, saying ‘what a lot of work’, I know what they’re really saying. This is the polite form in our language for ‘what a dope’. They can think so. But they’re wrong… This is not to say family life is just la-di-dah around here”. 

“Still, our grocery-store bill for the year was a small fraction of what it had been the year before, and most of it went for regionally produced goods we had sleuthed out in our supermarket: cider vinegar, milk, butter, cheese, and wines, all grown and processed in Virginia. About $100 a month went to our friends at the farmers market for the meats and vegetables we purchased there. The market would now be closed for the rest of our record-keeping year, so that figure was deceptively high, including all the stocking up we’d done in the fall….We were saving tons of money by eating, in every sense, at home. Our goal had not really been to economize, only to exercise some control over which economy we would support. We were succeeding on both counts. If we’d had to purchase all our vegetables as most households do, instead of pulling them out of our back forty, it would still be a huge money-saver to shop in our new fashion, starting always with the farmer’s market and organizing meals from there. I know some people will never believe that. Its too easy to see the price of a locally grown tomato or melon and note that it’s higher (usually) than the conventionally grown, imported one at the grocery. Its harder to see, or perhaps to admit, that all those NTP PANDA PFFSs do add up. The big savings come from a habit of organizing meals that don’t include pricey processed additions”. 

“Our plan to make everything from scratch had pushed us into a lot of great learning experiences. In some cases, what we learned was that it was too much trouble for everyday: homemade pasta really is better, but we will always buy it most of the time, and save the big pasta-cranking events for dinner parties… I’d also imagined at some irrational moment that I would learn to make apple cider and vinegar, but happily submitted to realism when I located professionals nearby doing these things really well. On the other hand, making our daily bread, soft cheeses, and yogurt had become so routine we now prepared them in minutes, without a recipe. Altered routines were really the heart of what we’d gained”.

“Crop failure is a possibility all farmers understand, and one reason why the traditional farmstead raised many products, both animal and vegetable, unlike the monocultures now blanketing our continent’s midsection. History has regularly proven it drastically unwise for a population to depend on just a few varieties for the majority of its sustenance. The Irish once depended on a single potato, until the potato famine rewrote history and truncated many family trees. We now depend similarly on a few corn and soybean strains for the majority of calories (both animal and vegetable) eaten by U.S citizens. Our addiction to just two crops has made us the fattest people who’ve ever lived, dining just a few pathogens away from famine”. 

“Woe  is us, we overfed, undernourished U.S. citizens- we are eating poorly for so very many reasons. A profit-driven, mechanized food industry has narrowed down our variety and overproduced corn and soybeans. But we let other vegetables drop from the menu without putting up much of a fight. In our modern Cafe Dysfunctional, ‘eat your vegetables’ has become a battle cry of mothers against presumed unwilling subjects… Mom is losing, no doubt, because our vegetables have come to lack two features of interest: nutrition and flavor. Storage and transport take predictable tolls on the volatile plant compounds that subtly add up to taste and food value. Breeding to increase shelf life also has tended to decrease palatability. Bizarre as it seems, we’ve accepted a tradeoff that amounts to: ‘Give me every vegetable in every season, even if it tastes like cardboard”. 

“By pushing the market with our buying habits, we continually shape our buying choices, and the nature of farming”. 

“Cooking is a dying art in our culture, why is a good question, and an uneasy one, because I find myself politically and socioeconomically entangled in the answer… Somehow, though, history came around and bit us in the backside: now most women have jobs and still find themselves largely in charge of the housework. Cooking at the end of a long day is a burden we could live without. It’s a reasonable position. But it got so twisted into a pathological food culture. When my generation of women walked away from the kitchen we were escorted down that path by a profiteering industry that knew a tired, vulnerable marketing target when they saw it. ‘Hey ladies,”, it said to us, ‘go ahead, get liberated. We’ll take care of dinner. They threw open the door and we walked into a nutritional crisis and genuinely toxic food supply. We came a long way, baby, into bad eating habits and collaterally impaired family dynamics. No matter what else we do or believe, food remains at the center of every culture. Ours now runs on empty calories. When we traded homemaking for careers, we were implicitly promised economic independence and worldly influence. But a devil of a bargain it has turned out to be in terms of daily life. We gave up the aroma of warm bread rising, the measured pace of nurturing routines, the creative task of molding our families’ tastes and zest for life; we received in exchange the minivan and the Lunchable. I consider it the great hoodwink of my generation”. 

“I’m getting better at facing life’s routines the way my friend faces his cornfield. I haven’t mastered the serene mindset on all household chores (what do you do for fun around here? I scrub pots and pans, okay?), but I might be getting there with cooking. Eternal is the right frame of mind for making food for a family… A lifetime is what I’m after. Cooking is definitely one of the things we do for fun around here. When I’m in a blue mood I head for the kitchen. I turn the pages of my favorite cookbooks, summoning the prospective joyful noise of a shared meal. I stand over a bubbling soup, close my eyes, and inhale. From the ground up, everything about nourishment steadies my soul”.

“But if I were to define my style of feeding my family, on a more permanent basis, by the dictum, ‘Get it over with, quick’, something cherished in our family life would collapse. And I’m not just talking waistlines, though we’d certainly miss those. I’m discussing dinnertime, the cornerstone of our family’s mental health”.

“Eating preprocessed or fast food can look like salvation in the short run, until we start losing what real mealtimes give to a family: civility, economy, and health. A lot of us are wishing for a way back home, to the place where care-and-feeding isn’t zookeeper’s duty but something happier and more creative. ‘Cooking without remuneration’ and ‘slaving over a hot stove’ are activities separated mostly by a frame of mind. The distinction is crucial. Career women in many countries still routinely apply passion to their cooking, heading straight from work to the market to search out the freshest ingredients, feeding their loved ones with aplomb… These women had no apparent concern about sounding unliberated; in the context of a healthy food culture, fish and leeks are as respectable as postcolonial literature (and arguably more fun). Full-time homemaking may not be an option for those of us delivered without trust funds into the modern era. But approaching mealtimes as a creative opportunity, rather than a chore, is an option. Required participation from a spouse and kids is an element of the equation. An obsession with spotless collars, ironing, and kitchen floors you can at off of-not so much. We’ve earned the right to forget about stupefying household busywork. But kitchens where food is cooked and eaten, those were really a good idea”.

“It’s easy for any of us to claim no time for cooking; harder to look at what we’re doing instead, and why every bit of it is presumed more worthy. Some people really do work double shifts with overtime and pursue no recreational activities, ever, or they are homeless or otherwise without access to a stove and refrigerator. But most are lucky enough to do some things for fun, or for self-improvement or family entertainment. Cooking can be one of those things. Working people’s cooking, of course, will develop an efficiency ethic. I’m shameless about throwing out the extraneous plot twists of a hoity-toity recipe and getting to its main theme. Or ignoring cookbooks altogether during the week, relying mostly on simple meals I’ve made a thousand ties before, in endless variation: frittata, stir-fry, pasta with one protein and two vegetables thrown in. Or soups that can simmer unattended all day in our Crock-Pot. More labor-intensive recipes we save for weekends: lasagnas, quiches, roasted chicken, desserts of any kind. I have another rule about complicated dishes: always double the recipe, so we can recoup the investment and eat this lovely thing again later in the week. Routines save time and tempers. Like a mother managing a toddlers mood swings, our family has built some reliable backstops for the times in our week when work0weary, low-blood-sugar blowouts are most likely. Friday nights are always pizza-and-movie nights… We always keep the basic ingredients for pizza on hand-flour and yeast for the dough, mozzarella, and tomatoes (fresh, dried, or canned sauce, depending on the season). All other toppings vary with the garden and personal tastes… Because it’s a routine. Our pizzas come together without any fuss as we gather in the kitchen to decompress”.

“Takeout is not the only easy way out. With a basic repertoire of recipes in your head, the better part of valor is just turning on the burner and giving it a shot… For a dedicated non-cook, the first step is likely the hardest: convincing oneself it’s worth the trouble in terms of health and household economy, let alone saving the junked-up world. It really is. cooking is the greatest divide between good eating and bad. The gains are quantifiable: cooking and eating at home, even with quality ingredients, costs pennies on the dollar compared with meals prepared by a restaurant or factory”.

“A quality diet is not an elitist option for the do-it-yourselfer. Globally speaking, people consume more soft drinks and packaged foods as they grow more affluent; home-cooked meals of fresh ingredients are the mainstay of rural, less affluent people. This link between economic success and nutritional failure has become so widespread, it has a name: the nutrition transition”. 

“In this country, some of our tired and poorest live in neighborhoods where groceries are sold only in gas station mini-marts. Food stamp allowances are in some cases as low as one dollar a person per meal, which will buy beans and rice with nothing thrown in. But many more of us have substantially broader food options than we’re currently using to best advantage. Home-cooked, whole-ingredient cuisine will save money. It will also help trim off and keep off extra pounds, when that’s an issue- which is it, for some two-thirds of adults in the U.S. Obesity is our most serious health problem, and our sneakiest, because so many calories slip in uncounted. Corn syrup and added fats have been outed as major ingredients in fast food, but they hide out in packaged foods, too, even presumed-innocent ones like crackers. Cooking lets you guard the door, controlling not only what goes into your food, but what stays out”.

“Finally, cooking is good citizenship. It’s the only way to get serious about putting locally raised foods into your diet, which keeps farmlands healthy and grocery money in the neighborhood”.

“Family time is at a premium for most of us, and legitimate competing interests can easily crowd out cooking. But if grabbing fast food is the only way to get the kids to their healthy fresh-air soccer practice on time, that’s an interesting call. Arterial-plaque specials that save minutes now can cost years, later on”.

“Households that have lost the soul of cooking from their routines may not know what they’re missing: the song of a stir-fry sizzle, the small talk of clinking measuring spoons, the yeasty scent of rising dough, the painting of flavors onto a pizza before it slides into the oven. The choreography of many people working in one kitchen is, by itself, a certain definition of family, after people have made their separate ways home to be together. The nurturing arts are more than just icing on the cake, insofar as they influence survival. We have dealt to today’s kids the statistical hand of a shorter life expectancy than their parents, which would be us, the ones taking acre of them. Our thrown-away food culture is the sole reason. By taking the faster drive, what did we save?”

“Once you start cooking, one thing leads to another. A new recipe is as exciting as a blind date. A new ingredient, heaven help me, is an intoxicating affair”.

“Grocery money is an odd sticking point for U.S. citizens, who on average spend a lower proportion of our income on food than people in any other country, or any heretofore in history. In our daily fare, even in school lunches, we broadly justify consumption of tallow-friend animal pulp on the grounds that its cheaper than whole grains, fresh vegetables, hormone-free dairy, and such. Whether on school boards or in families, budget keepers may be aware of the health tradeoff but still feel compelled to economize on food.- in a manner that would be utterly unacceptable if the health risk involved an unsafe family vehicle or a plume of benzene running through a school basement. It’s interesting that penny-pinching is an accepted defense for toxic food habits, when frugality so rarely rules other consumer domains. The majority of Americans buy bottled drinking water, for example, even though water runs from the faucets at home for a fraction of the cost, and government quality standards are stricter or tap water than for bottled. At any income-level, we can be relied upon for categorically unnecessary purchases”. 

“Nobody should need science to prove the obvious, but plenty of studies do show that regularly eating cheaply produced fast food and processed foods slaps on extra pounds that increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular harm, joint problems, and many cancers. As a country we’re officially over the top: the majority of our food dollars buy those cheap calories, and most of our citizens are medically compromised by weight and inactivity…. One out of every three dollars we spend on health care, by some recent studies, is paying for the damage of bad eating habits”. 

“An embarrassing but arguable point is that we’re applying deadly priorities to our food budgets because we believe the commercials… The surprise is how handsomely marketers recoup that investment: how successfully they convince us that cheap food will make us happy. How delusional are we, exactly? Insisting to farmers that our food has to be cheap is like commanding a ten-year-old to choose a profession and move out of the house now. It violates the spirit of the enterprise. It guarantees bad results. The economy of the arrangement will come around to haunt you. Anyone with a working knowledge of children would see the flaw in that parenting strategy. Similarly, it takes a farmer to understand the analogous truth about food production- that time and care yield quality that matters- and explain that to the rest of us. Industry will not, but individual market growers can communicate concern that they’re growing food in a way that’s healthy and safe, for people and place”. 

“If nobody is spritzing chemicals on the predators, all a plant can do is toughen up by manufacturing its own disease/pest-fighting compounds. That’s why organic produced shows significantly higher levels of antioxidants than conventional- these nutritious compounds evolved in the plant not for our health, but for the plants’s. Several studies have shown fruits and vegetables grown without pesticides and herbicides to contain 50 to 60 percent more antioxidants than their sprayed counterparts. The same antioxidants that fight diseases and pests in the plant leaf work similar magic in the human body, protecting us not so much against hornworms as against various diseases, cell aging, and tumor growth. Spending extra money on organic produce buys these extra nutrients, with added environmental benefits for the well-being of future generations”. 

“A common complaint about organic and local foods is that they’re more expensive than ‘conventional’ (industrially grown) foods. Most consumers don’t realize how much we’re already paying for the conventional foods, before we even get to the supermarket… And we’re being forced to pay more each year for the environmental and health costs of that method of food production”. 

“Organic practices build rather than deplete the soil, using manure and cover crops. They eliminate pesticides and herbicides, instead using biological pest controls and some old-fashioned weeding with a hoe. They maintain and apply knowledge of many different crops. All this requires extra time and labor. Smaller farms also bear relatively higher costs for packaging, marketing, and distribution. But the main difference is that organic growers aren’t forcing us to pay expenses they’ve shifted into other domains, such as environmental or health damage. As they’re allowed to play a larger role n the U.S. agricultural economy, our subsidy costs to industrial agriculture will decrease. For a few dollars up front, it’s a blue-chip investment”. 

“One of the key things gardens can teach students is about respect: for themselves, for others, and the environment. It helps future generations gain an understanding of our food system, our forests, our water and air, and how these things are all connected”. 

“From a biological perspective, the ultimate act of failure is to raise helpless kids. Not a parent I know worth the title wants to do that. But our operation system values Advanced Placement Comparative Politics, for example, way, way ahead of Knowing How to Make Your Own Lunch. Kids who can explain how supernovas are formed may not be allowed to get dirty in play group, and many teenagers who could construct and manage a Web site would starve if left alone on a working food farm”.

“But right now, looking at all these jars in the pantry gave me a happy, connected feeling, as if I had roots growing right through the soles of my shoes into the dirt of our farm. I understand that’s a pretty subjective value, not necessarily impressive to an outsider. It’s a value, nonetheless. Food security is no longer the sole concern of the paranoid schizophrenic. Some of my very sane friends in New York and Washington, D.C., tell me that city households are advised now to have a two-month food supply on hand at all times”.

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