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Lynne Plambeck: The new ‘ethical eating’ movement

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: July 15, 2009 9:08 p.m.
Updated: July 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Every Sunday morning and Thursday afternoon our city hosts a real farmers market. Visiting the market in Newhall has become an enjoyable Thursday afternoon ritual for me.

Among the many booths are local fruits that you may try before buying (fresh figs and cherries are newly in season) and loads of local vegetables, including the most beautiful tomatoes.

They come in many colors never seen in the market — red, green, yellow, pink and even purple. What a colorful salad they make.

You’ll also find flowers of all kinds and local wildflower honey from Aqua Dulce.

Honey choices vary based on the flower visited by a particular hive, including buckwheat, sage and more.

Potatoes too have many varieties I have never seen in the grocery store. They range in size from large to very small, and in color from white and yellow to red and purple.

The Sunday market in a College of the Canyons parking lot is wonderful for its greater diversity of edible offerings.

Many varieties of organic hydroponic lettuces can be tasted before buying, sprouts and nuts abound.

There is more to visiting our farmers markets than just buying fresh-baked breads and right-off-the-vine squashes and cucumbers.

It is a social event. I see friends there every week with their canvas bags full of freshly purchased garden delights.

No one seems to be in a hurry, so there is almost always time for a smile, a “hello” and an extended chat.

And it’s the same with the farmers. They are glad to give you a taste of their wares (within reason, of course), tell you about their farms and what fruit or vegetable will be coming into season next month.

These simple pleasures make visiting a farmers market well worth it, even without the many additional benefits that this sort of folksy shopping brings.

But let me tell you the other wonderful benefits of “shopping locally.”

First, it helps keep small family farmers in business. Big agribusiness often wraps up the supply chain to grocery stores, making distribution for smaller farmers difficult.

Their food is delicious, but they can’t get it to market. The new explosion of farmers’ markets throughout the U.S. is making sure that family farms still have a way to sell their wares and make a living.

Packaged and nonlocal foods have usually been trucked thousands of miles in the distribution chain to end up at your local grocery store.

Fruit may come from South America, even as far as Argentina, cut green and treated with chemicals so it can be shipped without ripening and rotting. (No wonder it is often tasteless.)

By eating locally grown food, we reduce the fuel spent to move that food over thousands of miles and ensure our local farmers can keep the family farm.

Perhaps we can avoid the recent sadness of losing so many orange groves in Ventura because it was cheaper to import oranges from Argentina.

How can oranges from Argentina be less expensive than the ones found just a few miles down Highway 126?

One obvious answer is that big agribusiness in Argentina pays workers only dollars a day to harvest and pack the fruit.

Many countries do not have rules about pesticide pollution, so farms can pollute with impunity where our farmers cannot.

They are also permitted to use chemicals that are banned in this country, some of them even shipped overseas for “dumping” after they were banned in the U.S.

We don’t like the idea of buying clothes made in sweat shops by children, and I really don’t think most people would support the idea of “sweatshop” farm labor either, if they thought about it.

That is probably the reason so many local faith congregations support the new “ethical eating” concept.

From community gardens where part of the harvest is donated as a “second harvest” to a local food bank, to the “ethical eating” potluck lunch held quarterly by the local Unitarian Universalist congregation, this new trend is bringing joy to many people in many walks of life, and helping the Earth, too.

Lynne Plambeck is president of the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Environmentally Speaking” appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.

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