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In Good Taste | Important questions in the search for fresh food

Columnist Monica Downen, along with her husband Mark, owns Monica’s Waterfront Bakery & Cafe in Old Town Silverdale. Contact her at (360) 698-2991 or monica@waterfrontbakery.com. Find her on the web at www.WaterfrontBakery.com. - Courtesy photo
Columnist Monica Downen, along with her husband Mark, owns Monica’s Waterfront Bakery & Cafe in Old Town Silverdale. Contact her at (360) 698-2991 or monica@waterfrontbakery.com. Find her on the web at www.WaterfrontBakery.com.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

When I talk about “local” food, very often I am referring to seasonal foods. Produce offers a good introduction to eating seasonally and is an excellent way to learn about local agriculture. One of the main benefits that I find to purchasing locally grown foods is that I can ask the farmer or producer exactly what went into the process of the food, and perhaps even visit the farm. Do they use more traditionally organic/sustainable growing methods? Do they respect the land and animals they are raising? Do they use chemical fertilizers and pesticides?

If someone is growing a garden of food to sell at local markets, and they are filling it full of chemicals through fertilizers, pesticides and weed control, is it a better choice than buying organic food that comes from Mexico at the grocery store? I am not sure that it is. According to the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems, “The biggest part of fossil fuel use in industrial farming is not transporting food or fueling machinery; it’s chemicals.”

Food processors use large amounts of packaging to keep food fresh as it is transported/stored for long periods of time, which is usually difficult or impossible to reuse or recycle, and large industrial farms are a major source of air and water pollution. It seems most often that our small farms do use organic and sustainable methods, and they work hard to preserve the small amount of land they have. Good land habits and others such as seeking out local markets, minimizing packaging, and harvesting food only when it is ready to consume, mean that our local farmers significantly reduce their environmental impact. The Organic Green Revolution tells us “that sustainable agricultural practices can actually increase food production by up to 79 percent while at the same time actively reducing the effects of farming on climate change.”

What is a small farmer? Certainly anyone who grows and provides food for others outside of their home, especially for a fee or profit. Many would consider themselves hobby gardeners, but if you are growing food for others for a fee you are a small farmer. The one exception is anyone who grows food to donate to the food banks. Obviously there is no profit, though it is a wonderful gift to feed others good food. Any farmer, nay gardener, with an abundance of food to get rid of who does not want to sell at a market, can take it to their local food bank. Some seed companies encourage you to grow a row for the hungry and even send out a free seed-pack with every order to support that movement.

Do you have a surplus of fresh food that you would like to donate? Kitsap County Food Bank Coalition is a network of eight food banks that can always use help in their fight against hunger. You can check them out online here: www.kcfbc.com/food_bank_list.html. The South Kitsap Helpline has acquired the Port Orchard Nursery, so when you are shopping for things to plant, even if it isn’t food, you can still help feed your hungry neighbors. If you cannot get to a food bank to donate feel free to bring your items to the café and we will make sure that it gets sent to those who need it most.

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