Local food movement takes root

Food. Fruits. Vegetables.

It’s grown by hardworking men and women on farms that blanket the American countryside; where the agrarian roots are more than skin-deep. Or is it?

Over time, the food supply in this country has become centralized in large food service companies like Kraft, Dole, and General Mills that specialize in making food production and distribution more efficient and more profitable.

Many have seen the commercialization of agriculture, and the rise of multinational food companies, as a hindrance to the health of the American people and vitality of the nation’s food supply.

In response, a movement that focuses on organically-grown food has increased in popularity across the country. This movement also emphasizes the importance of shopping for foods that were grown nearby.

The manifestation of this movement can be seen in the “farmer’s markets” that give local farmers a venue to interact and sell their products to local customers.
Locally, the Brazos Valley Farmer’s Market has a similar goal, in hosting two farmer’s markets each week: Saturday mornings from 8-12:00 P.M. at the corner of William Joel Bryan and Texas Avenue and on Wednesday afternoons in the Village Foods parking lot.

“Farmers markets are a great way to meet local producers,” local farmer and farmer’s market participant Tiffany Evans said. “You can choose to support those whose ethics and growing practices you agree with. Small farmers are a dying breed, and by supporting farmers markets, younger farmers are encouraged to continue growing food. You get to meet and be involved with others who share your concern for healthy, clean food and the environment.”

Environmentally, farmer’s markets are designed to reduce the amount of traveling that food does in being shipped from large multinational farms. Reducing this travel means using less fossil fuels and reducing the carbon footprint of growing food.

“We have always lived on a small farm and produced more than we could use ourselves so we would sell the rest to friends and other people,” local farmer Harvey Wise said. “The items you buy from the Farmer’s Market will be fresher than those in a grocery store, have traveled less distance, and you can get to know the local farmer personally and get lots of ideas on how to use the food items.”

Many students, after learning about many of the issues presented by the food industry, have embraced the organic and locally-grown food movement.

“All of the food that I’ve seen at the Farmer’s Market is really good quality,” sophomore Sandy Schwalen said. “I think it’s a good way to get in touch with your community and yourself. You reflect more on what you eat and how that affects you and your life.”

Although there is much variation between the products and practices of different farmers, many of the foods sold at farmer’s markets are organically-grown, which means they are grown without many of the pesticides, chemical additives, and genetic modifications of food that is not grown organically.

The Center for Food Safety warns that many of these foods that have genetic modifications and chemical additives pose health risks including higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer.

“A few health problems prompted me to start eating a more plant based diet,” Evans said. “Not willing to rely on big agriculture and government regulations, I decided to start growing a majority of my own food. It wasn’t long before I had friends and family asking for my fresh produce, so naturally I increased my production each season. Eventually I figured out that I could create an income doing what I love, teaching people how to eat right and have a healthy lifestyle.”

Other food stores, like Village Foods and Brazos Health Foods, have also developed as venues to sell locally-grown and organic foods.

“We are locals, serving locals. We are here to serve you,” is the closing line of Village Foods’ letter to the customers. Specifically, Village Foods offers locally-grown products, a gluten-free department, locally-roasted coffee, and prides themselves on being the only store in town that “unloads your groceries for you, rings them up, bags them, and then takes them to your car and puts them in your trunk.”

For every dollar that is spent in locally-owned businesses and shops, 45 cents remains in the community.

While farmer’s markets can ensure the ability to know those that grow the food, larger grocery stores have also begun to sell organic and locally-grown foods. HEB, for example, says that they try to provide consumers with greater information about the food that they purchase.

Ultimately, the movement for locally-grown and organic foods has grown, but will continue to grow with increased awareness of the issues surrounding the American food supply.