I always joke with my friends that my food obsession is what drives my farming career. Although I AM being silly when I say that, there's always a kernel of truth in every joke, and the truth is that I feel like crap when I don't eat fresh veggies. It only takes me being on the road and eating mass-produced food for a few days before I start to feel miserably wilted. When I’m away from the farm and glaring at an old-out-of-the-bag romaine salad, I have daydreams of arugula, straight out of my field. Yes, maybe I am a food snob as my friends sometimes like to tease me… but my preoccupation with food comes from the sheer motivation of how good eating fresh food feels (and tastes!). For me, food is at the center of what nourishes not only my relationship with my own body, but also what nourishes my relationship with my community. I love my friends and family and get deep fulfillment knowing that I am feeding them clean, nutrient-dense, and delicious food.
People often want me to compare my produce to the typical produce coming out of the industrial supply chain, but this comparison feels nonsensical. In my mind “my vegetables” and “industrial vegetables” are radically different products! My produce is literally as fresh as possible, as clean as possible (free of toxic contaminants), and your dollars support ethical agriculture and female entrepreneurship in your community. Contrast that with industrial produce: this produce may start with contamination (i.e. pesticides) on the farm, often arrives at grocery stores weeks old, and may be exposed to even more contaminates (like bacteria) en transit and at the store before getting to your kitchen. To boot, when you buy industrially produced vegetables, your dollars are supporting environmentally damaging agricultural practices and often exploitative migrant labor that as a society, we conveniently never really see or think about.
I’ve seen where industrial lettuce comes from. I’ve driven through romaine fields stretching as far as the eye can see in Yuma, AZ; look it up on Google Earth if you want to see yourself. Most of the USA’s winter lettuce crop is grown in this region between Arizona, California, and Mexico – a desert irrigated by the Colorado River. Not to digress too much… I think you get it, right? Lettuce grown in an irrigated desert, sprayed by chemicals, picked by exploited labor, shipped to you across the country, and then displayed at the grocery is not the same thing as lettuce grown locally, using only natural and biological inputs, picked fresh by employees earning a living wage, and delivered a short distance directly to your neighborhood. It’s hard to even compare the two.
In aspiring to be a better marketer of my small business, I’m always trying to ask myself why would you even consider buying my product? So often I hear folks telling me that I should leverage “environmental”, “local”, or “female-owned” selling points. Although those things are all amazing and true, they are all extrinsic factors that don't really impact your day-to-day. But the quality of my produce? That is impactful. To me, eating vegetables that are as fresh and as free from contamination as possible seems like my best selling point; that is something real, something that you are putting in your and your family's bodies. As I mentioned, having access to this quality of food is what drives own decision to farm.
I know y’all don't want to be reminded of this, BUT IT'S TRUE. Our industrial food system is toxic!! According to the Environmental Working Group, Nearly 70% of the non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides. (Gentle reminder to always wash your vegetables!) Nearly 60% of kale sold in the U.S. was contaminated with residues of a pesticide, Dacthal, which the EPA classified as a possible carcinogen in 1995. When was the last time you bought kale and didn't wash it?
I want to state clearly here that my aim is not to shame anyone who is not in the position to eat or access pristinely clean food. Most of the world eats from the industrial food system. Eating conventional vegetables is better than eating no vegetables. There is not meant to be shame here, but the facts are the facts. The more we know and understand the realities of the systems that feed us, the more we can become savvier, better-informed consumers. For those of us who are supremely fortunate to have access to a pristinely clean food source: doesn't it seem worth it to pay a financial and/or logistical price to access that food?
I'd personally rather fill my fridge with very fresh vegetables that I am confident have NEVER been sprayed by pesticides rather than worry about old, possibly carcinogenic produce. But maybe that’s just why I have 3 acres of vegetables in my backyard???
Food for thought from you farmer <3