By Contributing Author: Sharon A. See
Most produce, meat, and poultry products you find in the grocery store unless labeled otherwise, are grown, raised or produced by what's known as “Big Ag” and or Factory Farming operations. Big Ag operations are huge commercial farms that typically grow one crop over and over again. The sole purpose is high yield, not high quality or nutritional value. This style of crop management can lead to over-farming of the land which depletes the soil. Huge amounts of pesticides, herbicides and chemically based fertilizers are used. Here you will also find a very high rate of GMO use.
Factory farming is the industrialized production of livestock. These animals are raised in deplorable and inhumane environments. These filthy, unsanitary conditions require the constant use of antibiotics. The animals are also injected with or fed growth hormones to enhance the rate of growth so they can be brought to market in shorter periods of time than the natural growth cycle would allow. These practices produce some of the most chemical-laden and unhealthy food products in our food supply. All the chemicals, antibiotics and hormones the animals ingest are passed along to the consumer of the meat, milk, eggs and other food products made from these animals.
Here’s the good news. Many grocers now partner with local producers. And when it’s not growing season in our region they may import from smaller farms located in other parts of the world. But it’s on us as the consumer to ask questions about where the food originates and do some research about the country of origin to learn about their farming practices. It can take some time, but it’s well worth the effort.
Since it’s just about peak growing season here in Connecticut, why not head on over to the Monroe Farmers Market instead? Here you have access to all the best options of right now! The producers and farmers at the market offer you a variety of fresh produce and food products that are grown in some of the healthiest ways. Sustainably grown foods, organic foods, and locally grown foods are the most common. Knowing what is important to you and your family will help guide your decisions on which one is best for you. Get to know your local farmers and ask about their growing practices. You’ll learn a lot and will be sure to find vendors who are a good fit for you.
Organically grown crops are the gold standard, but very hard to come by. It’s an involved and expensive process for a farmer to be Certified Organic, but you can find a few. Organic produce is grown free of all chemicals, pesticides, and animal products are without antibiotics and hormones. The produce is fresher because it is harvested closest to peak ripeness and will contain more nutrients because of ripening naturally on the parent plant. Grass-fed beef is higher in good cholesterol and lower in bad, higher in vitamins A & E, leaner with lower fat content, and contains more antioxidants.
Locally grown crops that aren't certified to be organic are a healthful option too. Small local operations don't use nearly the level of chemicals and pesticides found in Big Ag and local producers of animal products don't have the unsanitary conditions that come from overcrowding and mass production of livestock. The crops can have the same nutritional value as organics because they are grown in close proximity to the point of sale, the farmers market. And for me the most important benefit is getting to know the farmer, knowing exactly where your food is coming from and how it's grown.
Sustainable farming combines many of the clean practices used in organic farming and has all the nutritional upside of locally grown produce. I find crops grown in this fashion to be the best, most affordable and most abundant choice for me and my family. I also appreciate the socially responsible aspect of this style of farming. Crops are strategically rotated as to not deplete the soil. Compatible crops are grown alongside each other to maximize growing space. Specially chosen cover crops suppress weeds and act as natural pest deterrents to limit the need for pesticides and chemicals. Great care is taken to do no harm to the soil, air, and water. Sustainable farms actually enhance and preserve the land for future generations to use for food production. Animals raised on sustainable farms are healthier, fed higher quality foods and yield a healthier food product.
You have many healthful options available to you in our region this time of year. Take advantage of it and visit the Monroe Farmers Market. If you live outside the Monroe area, visit a farmers market in your area to get to know your local farmers and learn what’s available to you.
About Sharon A. See
I welcome your feedback. If you have a farmers market or healthy eating related topic you'd like to hear more about or questions you'd like answered, please feel free to let me know. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharon A. See
Certified Holistic Health Coach
You can find me and other interesting articles, resources, and recipes on my website at www.vitalizedwellness.com.
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The Monroe Farmers' Market is open June–October and offers fresh, locally-grown produce, baked goods, prepared foods and hand-crafted specialty foods to Connecticut locals.