The weather has been unseasonably warm this year. Although I'm not complaining about the arrival of an early summer, it is quite concerning. Those of you who are still in denial about global warming – WAKE UP!
I'm writing this on Mother's Day and reflecting on how we can love our mother and as a mother myself, do my duty to create a better world for my children and their children. I make a conscious effort to educate my kids about what they can do to be more conscious about the environment and do their part to take care of our mother earth.
A very simple way to make an impact is through our diet.
Yesterday as I was watching my kids at gymnastics class, I was eavesdropping on a couple having a conversation about whether they should start shopping at the farmers market, and if indeed the food was better than what they get at Safeway. It took every ounce of my being not to start lecturing them about all the reasons why they should definitely start shopping at the farmers market and that YES, it's infinitely better that anything you can get at a grocery store. But I held my tongue. So I've decided to write about it instead.
My favorite way to be a conscious consumer and green my diet is to shop at the local farmers market. It's not only a totally enjoyable experience and so much more fulfilling than shopping at a big box grocery store with artificial lighting, but it makes me feel so good to know that I'm doing my small part in being part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem. Let me count the ways why you too should start to get to know your local farmers and connect with others who are also "being the change".
Reduce your carbon footprint. A Canadian study estimated that replacing imported food with equivalent items locally grown would save transport-related emissions equivalent to nearly 50,000 metric tons of CO2, or the equivalent of taking 16,191 cars off the road.
Increase nutritional value by eating food that's been picked ripe (and possibly that day or a few days ago). Most grocery store produce is picked far before its prime and then irradiated, waxed, or gassed before it travels many miles. Produce starts to lose its nutritional value as soon as it's picked. The sooner you eat it, the more vitamins it contains and the healthier it is.
Support your local economy and family farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that farmers and ranchers working for massive corporations receive only 20 percent of the price of food. Buying directly from your farmer allows them to keep their small, sustainable farms alive, as opposed to supporting mono-cropping of big, bad companies who take advantage of farmers and only care about the bottom line.
Diversify your species. Passionate farmers often seek out heirloom and unique varieties that contain more nutrients than your those you'll find in the grocery store. Due to evolving agricultural practices over the past half century and, more currently, climate change, 75 percent of the world’s population subsists on only five animal species and only 12 types of plants. In the last century 75% of crop genetic diversity has been lost. Eating a diverse selection of foods helps improve your gut flora, not to mention provide you with vitamins and minerals that may be lacking in your diet. (p.s. your daily multi will not suffice for those missing nutrients)
Connect with community. We are social creatures and thrive in community. (centenarians living in Blue Zones can attest to this). Not only will you be with surrounding yourself with other like-minded people, but it's a great opportunity to get to know your farmer and connect on a deeper level to where your food is coming from.
Promote the humane treatment of animals. Small scale farmers have the ability to take better care of their animals and allow them to live closer to their natural environments. You will be more likely to find hormone-free, free-range, grass fed and antibiotic free animal products at your local farmers market.
Educate yourself. Ask your farmer for tips on how to cook and prepare the food you're buying. I'll often ask them for gardening advice or even inquire about nutritional information! They are a wealth of information and usually very happy to share it.
Have fun and make it an event! It's a weekly ritual in our family to attend the farmers market with my boys. They have their favorite stands, love to try samples, listen to live music and bounce in the jumping castle. What could be more fun than bumping into friends, eating great food, and people watching in the sunshine?
Eat seasonally. Seasonal food tastes better, is cheaper, healthier, but is also easier to digest. We are not separate from nature. In the winter our digestive fire is stronger enabling us to digest the heavier foods we crave. In the spring our bodies crave a detox to shed our winter weight so we might be drawn to naturally detoxifying greens. By eating what nature provides in any given season, we enable our bodies systems to work optimally.
Take it one step further and grow your own garden. Even sprouts on your counter, a herb box on your windowsill, or a small veggie garden in your yard can be a good start to doing your part to green your diet and love your mother.
*Bonus* tip – eat your weeds! You might even have noticed that stinging nettles, lamb's quarters and dandelions have even popped up at your local farmer's market. Instead of zapping them with weed killers and further polluting the earth, eat them instead. Here are some reasons why you should.
p.s. If you can't get to a local farmer's market, join a CSA (community supported agriculture). No excuses!