The Green Yogi

Picture and feel the difference between walking down the center aisle of a supermarket, and walking through a Farmers’ Market, where you can actually feel connected to the source of real, live food and you somehow find that your mood is lifted.

Famers’ Markets are growing dramatically every year. In 2009, there were 5,274 registered in the U.S., almost 20% more than in 2006. The number has tripled since 1994 when the USDA first counted them. (The number of small farms is also increasing every year.) At these community-building markets, the beautiful, tasty and healthful food offered is the satisfying result of soil being worked, seeds being planted, old-fashioned honest labors, no huge mark-ups, no incomprehensible dealings, neither Hollywood nor Wall Street is needed to buy or sell these bounties of the Earth. Their pure goodness sells itself.

Though 2009 was also a record year in seed sales, the CEO of Burpee seeds says that sales keep rising. This year, seed sales are already up again, over 15%. More gardens! Even if the recession is a factor – my three dollars worth of organic arugula seedlings just keep on producing – perhaps there is more than money at stake here (speaking of moods lifting).

The number of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operations, not coincidentally, is also growing rapidly. There were over 2,500 registered with Local Harvest in 2008, with a few hundred more being added to the roles in the beginning of 2009. With these, local farmers can be assisted by their communities, who are guaranteed fresh fruits and vegetables weekly for their dues or labors. Subscribers receive boxes of the goods straight from the harvest and farmers can count on some reliable income as well as a direct connection with their communities.

Finally, it’s good news when a major government report encourages this happy growth. The President’s Cancer Panel submitted their report in April, 2010. Among all of the environmental risks we face, it points to those related to commercial agriculture which have garnered little notice, systematic testing or research funding. One of the report’s conclusions states: “Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and washing conventionally grown produce to remove residues. Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications if it is available. Avoiding or minimizing consumption of processed, charred, and well-done meats will reduce exposure to carcinogenic…” substances. (substitution mine).

So, thanks to our gardens and these small farms, healthy foods are on the upswing here in the U.S., and as we know, they are feeding our spirits along with our bellies.

Barbara Hirsch is a recording engineer in Santa Barbara who enjoys her tiny garden, eating plentiful local foods, practicing yoga and getting around with her feet and her pedals, with some occasional fossil fuel assistance.

For more information about Farmers Markets and CSAs in your area, visit: localharvest.org.

By Barbara Hirsch