The commercialization of the food processing system and the unsavory farming practices associated with mass produced foods has led many discerning foodies to seek a healthier alternative. The farm to table movement was born out of the need to source ethically harvested food while fostering a greater connection between the consumer and the source of the food. Central to this farming culture is a focus on animal welfare to promote humanely raised animals with grass-fed, free-range and pastured practices.
The locally sourced produce is not subjected to prolonged freezing and processing to preserve its shelf-life. Fruits and vegetables that make it on our dinner table are transported an average of 1,500 miles before being sold (source: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture). In order to preserve the produce for that length of travel, industrial farmers harvest the fruits and veggies before they fully ripen. This practice allows the fruits to ripen during transport but it arrives lacking many of the vitamins and minerals that would have been there if those fruits were left to fully flourish before being harvested, packed and shipped.
Locally sourced fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses significantly benefit the local economy of the consumers who purchase these foods, and the environmental impact is favorable since the transportation vehicles that carry the produce are high fuel consumption vehicles with a heavy carbon footprint. However, as a physician that manages pain in patients, the biggest benefit of this trend is the culture of consumers paying attention to the nutrition content of their meals. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and diets high in saturated fats contribute to the inflammatory states that affect pain syndromes. My hope is that sustainable farming with locally sourced fruits and vegetables will eventually reduce the cost for access to healthy food.
Part of the obesity epidemic stems for the relatively low cost of processed foods, fast foods and saturated fats. Hopefully, when the farm comes to the table we are choosing to reduce the consumption of white breads, sugary drinks, fried foods, chips and pastries. Instead, we should be consuming more carrots, beets, cherries, grapes, onions and teas rich in anti-oxidants.
I will admit, just before penning this article I thoroughly enjoyed a red-velvet cupcake at a dinner party hosted by my wife. Our friends brought these delights from a local company that rhymes with “Yami-cakes” (company name intentionally omitted). These treats were sublime, however, I also had a fruit salad with an assortment of citrus, a green salad with dark, green leafy veggies, and baked chicken legs. I don’t feel guilty about the cupcake, I deserve it and so do you if you adhere to principles of moderation and a healthy active lifestyle.