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Creating the New Food Landscape

Is locally grown, organic food expensive? Or is it that the real costs of the food we eat have been hidden from us. A first in a series that will answer questions about our food system.

Hello Everyone,

My name is Rishi Kumar, and along with my family this year I founded The Growing Home and Learning Center ().  I'm not going to go into the details of what we do at The Growing Home in this post, so if you want to know more, I recommend about us.

I'll be using this Patch Blog to spread some educational information about our food today and how its grown. To start off, I'm going to go over a few questions people often ask me about the work I'm doing. Hopefully, this helps get some more people on board with the work we're doing.

Today, I'm just going to answer one question:

Why is locally grown, organic food so expensive?

Well, its not really that organic food is that expensive, but that industrially grown food appears extremely cheap. There are a few main points to go over here:

Industrial-scale agriculture requires tons and tons of fossil fuel to produce. Current estimates say that it takes about 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of industrially grown food. Why you ask? 

Well, basically everything required to produce industrial food is made out of fossils fuel. Nitrogen fertlizers and pesticides are both fossil fuel products. Industrial ag also relies heavily on heavy machinery, which run on diesel.

Then, once the food is produced, it travels an average of 1500 miles before it reaches your dinner plate.

How can this be cheaper than locally grown, organic produce?  The short answer is subsidies. The federal government heavily subsidizes fuels which go into the heavy machinery and make the fertilizers and pesticides. 

On top on that, the government heavily subsidizes corn, America's biggest crop (ever wonder why we are the only country that uses high fructose corn syrup?). 

So by the time the food reaches your local grocery store, a great portion of its cost has been paid by YOU through taxes.

Second, industrial agriculture relies heavily on migrant labor. A large portion of the produce you eat is picked and prepared by undocumented immigrants, who are paid extremely low wages (and often not treated humanely).

Even large scale organic farms are dependent on cheap, migrant labor.

Lastly, I want to point out the health costs of industrially produced food. Have you ever heard of the EAFUS?  It's a list of all the chemical additives allowed in food in the US. There are 3,960 chemicals on that list.

Not to mention the thousands of chemical pesticides used to produce the food that we also ingest. Just something to think about.

So is local, organic food expensive?  Well its definitely not more expensive that the food we're used to. You're just paying all the money upfront, instead of to the federal government and to the hospital. 

The problem now is that when you buy local organic produce today, you still have to pay taxes that go towards these subsidies, so you're paying for your food twice.

So what can you do? Well, if you can, I would still recommend buying organic food thats locally and ethically raised. If you're a little tight on cash, why not grow it yourself?

Thanks for reading.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Rishi K August 13, 2011 at 10:20 PM
Hey Gabriela, just read your article on Spirulina. Really great information. My brother Ro grows his own wheat grass at our home and juices it. Its also supposed to be very healthy. Have you ever tried it?
Gabriela Klein August 14, 2011 at 05:57 AM
Yes, I have, but I prefer Barley Grass. This week's article has some good info on it! There has been some concern about wheat allergies with the wheat grass. Have you ever heard of that? I'd like to come to your house to buy some produce, what day will you be there?
Ruth Milligan August 14, 2011 at 06:18 PM
Oh my! This would've been perfect, unfortunately we already had plans. Please, please, please email me the next time you host an event designed for kids. I will be there with bells & whistles!
Rishi K August 14, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Hi Ruth. If you sign up for our Newsletter (http://thegrowinghome.net/newsletter) you'll get updates about all our classes and events.
Gabriela Klein August 16, 2011 at 03:24 PM
We just visited the Growing Home garden last night, and got a tour from Rishi, Ro, and Pearl, their beautiful mother. What a great experience for the kids to see that a home can be a place to grow your own food. We ate figs, Concord grapes, zucchini leaves, Armenian cucumbers, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and sucked on some Stevia leaves. The Kumar family are very delightful and informative. We walked away with almost 10 lbs of fresh produce. I cooked the Kale immediately when we got home, and it was absolutely amazing. Thanks again! See you soon!

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