Food Integrity Begins at Home: Self-Sufficiency and Technology Foster Innovation
Jul 01, 2016 07:29PM
● By Jessica Moon
Where food comes from and how it is produced is under heightened scrutiny as the hidden additives in the food supply are exposed. Individuals and companies are promoting change by exposing large conglomerates’ food production practices and mobilizing the public to press for more transparency and integrity. Another approach is to keep food production closer to home. One of the best ways to ensure the food we eat is the most nutritious, fresh and sustainable possible is to grow it ourselves.
“Growing your own food is the most accurate way to guarantee what you’re eating,” says Spencer Curry of FRESH Farm Aquaponics in Bloomfield. His organization works with a growing number of small-scale food producers who are driven by a desire to ensure their community eats well. New technologies create opportunities for more groups of people to successfully grow food, Curry explains, contributing to the resurgence in gardening and farming.
Fairfield’s Nancy and Tom Grant are an inspiring story of local growers. Seven years ago, the retired couple decided to start growing a few vegetables on their property to sell to local buyers. They’ve since acquired official farm status from the city of Fairfield and have expanded their garden to become the four-acre Grant Farm LLC. They produce a wide variety of organic produce, including greens, heirloom tomatoes, berries, flowers and apples. Local small markets and restaurants seek out their produce for freshness and quality that may not be available through larger distributors.
To those looking to start growing their own produce, Nancy Grant recommends starting small and using online resources to get questions answered. “You learn as you go, and you’ll make mistakes,” she advises.
There are a number of online resources for learning what and how to grow in our area. Gardentribe.com, for example, offers free 21-day online boot camps for beginning gardeners. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CTNOFA.org) is another local resource whose mission is to connect those involved with local sustainable food and land care with organic resources and education.
Advances in technology—like those developed by FRESH Farms—allow apartment dwellers or urban farmers to grow abundantly, often offsetting their own food needs. To understand just how popular it is becoming to grow food in small spaces, check out Instagram hashtags like #apartmentgarden or #urbangarden.
Since one cannot live on homegrown basil alone, most of us still have to make purchasing decisions to get grains, meats, fish, eggs and produce. Lloyd Allen, owner of the Double L Market in Westport, believes it is important to buy food from stores that pick food for its vitality rather than shelf life. He explains that all chain supermarkets hold their food in central warehouses where it sits for extended periods of time in refrigeration. The problem with that, he says, is that the food rapidly loses its nutrients and its all-important “vitality’ that gives it health-promoting properties.
Allen is noticing that organic food prices are dropping and, in many cases, are almost in line with conventional prices. “If you’re buying better food and spending a little more on it, I believe you’ll end up going to the doctor less,” Allen says of organic foods still being more expensive.
In addition to small local markets, community-supported agriculture programs, or CSAs, offer fresh, locally grown food directly from farms to the public. Vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat, mushrooms and even coffee are just some of the products available through CSAs. For more information about how they work or how to participate in one active in your area, visit CTNOFA.org.
Jessica Moon, MS, is a clinical nutritionist and the owner of Nutrition Rescue in Stamford. Connect with her at NutritionRescue.net. See Community Resource Guide listing, page 59.