Eating well and eating "right" continue to become more and more complicated. Ali's blog, Henboggle, alerted me to the article "The Vegetable-Industrial Complex," published Sunday, 10/15/06 in the New York Times. The piece addresses the reactions and potential long-term effects of the packaged spinach E. coli outbreak.
The article touches on several topics of interest: The potential for more regulation and inspection of the produce industry; industrialization of both meat and produce production; globalization of food distribution, including "natural" and organic foods; and, the potential detrious effect of heavy regulation and testing requirements on small farmers.
The bottom line is that it made me, once again, think hard about where my food comes from and what I can do to support the most sustainable farming practices possible. One of my pet peeves is that some people tend to support the idea of "organic" over all other issues. While I prefer to eat organic, I also like to take into consideration the overall sustainability of the process. For me, purchasing something that is grown locally but not necessarily organic can often outweigh purchasing something that is organic but grown several hundred or thousands of miles away.
The most difficult issue, however, is confronting the fact that I live in Minnesota but want fresh vegetables throughout the winter. Our farmers markets are pretty much done by now, and won't re-open until April. CSA's may deliver into December, but then they close for the season. Yes, I garden, but it's recreational - I don't have the time (not to mention the resources) to set up my own greenhouse for winter greens production.
So what's an ecologically minded gal to do? Even though I live in the middle of a major metropolitan area, there are no co-ops near my house. My local grocery store, which is less than 1 mile from the house and on the way home from work, has been expanding their organic choices exponentially, but they still don't buy locally nearly as often as they should. If I want to shop at a co-op, I have to drive at least 10 miles away from both home and work. While the end result would be 100% organically and/or sustainably grown - and often local - food, the expense of my time and the fossil fuels required to shop at a co-op don't seem to tip the scales in favor of shopping at a co-op.
So, for now, I fret and worry and continue to shop at my local grocery store. The moment a solar-powered greenhouse farm somewhere near the Twin Cities that offers a CSA program for the winter, I'll join up. Until then, though, the only thing to do is to continue to be aware and to make the best choices possible.