Sunday, April 24, 2011

And now for something a little more serious....

I received some shocking news earlier this week. My best friend lost one of her close high school friends earlier this week to breast cancer, just a few weeks short of her 42nd birthday. I had the pleasure of meeting Laura just a few times in the 20+ years that I have known my best friend, and she was always a beautiful person.

My BFF and I were talking about how many of our generation who are leaving us way too early. In just the last two years we have lost two fraternity brothers way too soon (ages 39 and 41). We have both lost dear friends to breast cancer: mine at age 36, hers at 42. I have another friend who is bravely documenting her battle against breast cancer -- age 42. My BFF's own brother (whose birthday would have been today) passed away at 30 from cancer.

What is going on here? Not just with cancer but with an entire generation falling to diseases that should not have even been more than a fleeting thought until we hit our 60s. Now, I have my theories -- and while I'm not the love child of Det. John Munch and Jesse Ventura, I do have some ideas that are just hunches but could very well pan out. My own thought is that we have these things because of a poor food supply.

Not poor in quantity -- one need only see my chunky photos to show there was plenty of food in my childhood. Poor in quality .... well, that's debatable. I hesitate to use the word "poisoned" because that would connote that it was deliberate.... but hey, who knows? Who knows what sort of genetic modifications to the food supply took place in the 70s and 80s, and no one cared to alert the public? God only knows what years of laissez-faire toxic dumping did to our groundwater and soil? Who knows what mutations have coursed through our systems because of the food and chemicals we so eagerly ingested in childhood?

But there are groups out there, and other ways of doing things, to help your chances. Now, I'm not advocating hopping aboard the all-organic, all-natural, etc. bandwagon. As my friend Carrie put it, "Black widow spider venom is all natural" (she laughed when I told her my line is "hemlock was all natural but where did that get Socrates?"). However, I do think that we need to take a far more serious look at where our food is coming from, what's in it, who's providing it. And yes, there are times when the pocketbook trumps all. Let's face it, if I have $5 to spend on oranges, I'll buy the $2.00/bag regular ones over the $3.50/bag organic set -- after all, unless I'm buying it to use the orange peel or orange zest, it's money wasted when I throw the peel away!

Here are some websites that I visit, subscribe to their print publications, or somehow otherwise pay attention to in trying to clean up my own food supply:
There are lots of good grocery stores out there that support these principles. Some are chains, some are just local stores - but wherever you live, find something that works for you. For example, I work within 3 miles of two chains (one national, one regional) that in my childhood would have been labeled "health-food stores" .... but my local larger-chain grocery (not a national chain, but a good regional one) has lots of natural/organic/healthier items as well. I'll never forget when they first opened (even before I joined WW), that I noticed each aisle had a "natural and organic" section. I kind of chuckled and thought, "Yeah, good luck with that around here!" Well, all these years later, and they still have it... and you can usually find me at least browsing in those sections for some things!

I also Strongly advocate visiting farmer's markets (whether locally operated or state-owned), local farms, and taking part in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) group. I had planned to join a nearby CSA myself this year, but a huge car repair bill put that plan on ice. For more general information on what the local food movement is about, visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

To find a CSA near you, check out Local Harvest or the Eat Well Guide.

Here in the Carolinas, for local food sources, check out Carolina Farm Stewards. And if you are interested, visit the SC State Farmer's Market and the NC State Farmer's Market. Truth be told, I love the Asheville Farmer's Market... mostly because I've been to the one in Greenville at 9:00 AM and it's already been picked over!!! And I've been to Asheville's at 3:00 PM and still had plenty of choices! OR, if you are close to downtown Greenville, they have a Saturday Farmer's Market .... Clemson has their own market on Friday nights (starting June 3), plus nearby ones in Pendleton and Anderson, as well as Denver Downs (near Anderson). And for the last couple of years, Easley has had a Saturday farmer's market -- I got some GREAT stuff there near the end of the summer, and it was so good!

And of course, this year -- come hell or high water, if it kills me! -- I will be getting my big rear over to a nearby berry farm and to one of the local orchards for fresh berries, peaches and apples. Here's a great place to check out where to Pick-Your-Own in South Carolina, Western North Carolina, or North Georgia (or any other state/region you wish!)

The point is the more you know about your food, how it reacts with your body, the more you realize that you need to put the best that you can into it --- I'm not saying to spend a fortune. Believe me, it's way better to eat store-bought California grapes in South Carolina versus spending the money on junk. But with spring and summer here, there's plenty of opportunity to eat well -- and help local farmers stay in business so that we don't always have to wonder.... "Gee, what's in this corn?" or "Wonder where the stuff in this dish came from?"

PS: Not that I get on soapboxes that often (y'all stop snickering!), but if you want a very cool read, check out the story on Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farm who took a stand against large agribusiness over genetically modified seed.

Okay, steppin' off for now.....


Angie A said...

I love your new background :)
Great info here. There is a berry farm in anderson, Hardy Berry Farms

nettiemac said...

AWESOME! Love hearing about good local farms, and I will definitely check them out. My brother and I are planning to visit Live Oak Farms over in Woodruff - I think he somehow knows the owners. They have grass-fed beef! :)