Small, local farms are in a state of peril across the nation, and much of it has to do with the cost to run a farm nowadays. Real farmers of old are are dying breed and need as much support as we can give them.
The term "organic" has gotten so mainstream that companies are seeing dollar signs. The large corporations see a way to use the popularity of organic produce to make more money. They are defying the laws of organic farming to make larger profits.
A great way to avoid supporting the exploitation of the word "organic" is to support local farmers and eat seasonally. Getting your produce from a local farm reduces the amount of fossil fuels that are burnt in transporting vegetables from the far corners of the earth. It's great that we can get tomatoes in the winter now by buying from South America, but it's a huge expense to the environment.
Larger companies actually have warehouses were goods are sent to be sprayed with a chemical ripener so that produce can be picked before it's ripe and before it's susceptible to damage and spoilage during shipment.
Tons of fossil fuels are burnt during the process because often food has to be sent 2000 miles from its farm to the warehouse for ripening and then another 2000 miles to the store where it can be sold. It's obviously better to get food from a local farmer. Even if he had to travel 60 miles to get to you in New York City, it's better for the environment.
I find it truly fascinating to learn what fruits and vegetables are in season. I always knew that tomatoes tasted best at the end of July on the East Coast, but now I know that it's because they are in season. It seems so obvious, but I had to learn it.
A great way to participate in local farming, even when you live in a city, is to join a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is the practice of paying a stipend to a local farm and getting produce in return. The fee you pay helps them pay for their farming costs and you take part in all the risk and reward of a farm. For example, if there is a bad drought, you will get less produce in the following weeks.
Joining a CSA is a great way for children to learn about seasonal produce, where food comes from, and what impact their choices have on the food supply. They can learn about global warming first hand by seeing how changes in the natural environment affect a farmer's ability to grow crops, which affects how much food is available to eat.
One of my favorite parts of the CSA experience is getting to know the farmers. I grew up in the city and have been to pick-your-own farms, but didn't really know much about farmers. Each week CSA members get a newsletter telling about the trials and tribulations and great successes from the farm that week.
It's also great to see all the different kinds of fruits and vegetables that exist. I had my first kohlrabi from our CSA and I never would have picked it out at the store just because I wouldn't know how to cook it. In the weekly, newsletters, there are often recipes and explanations about interesting produce.
Although we pay up front for the vegetables and fruits we will have for the summer, it actually works out to less money on a weekly basis than shopping at the grocery store. And, it's exciting to find the new fruits and vegetables each week.
I enjoy supporting our local farms. All vegans and people interested in eating a more plant-based diet should look into joining a CSA. Not only is a great way to support your local economy, it also reminds you that your diet is helping not just your abs, but also the environment.