Farm to Fork – The Importance of Sustainable Eating

Becoming better educated consumers is not only important to our pocket books, but it has other significant impacts you may not be aware of.

Of course, we all understand that everything we eat will have some impact on our planet and our health. But did you know that we currently consume 1.6 times what our Earth’s natural resources can supply? (World
Wildlife Foundation-WWF) Or that studies have shown that the increase over the last 25 years of more highly processed foods in our diets has led to significant increases in cancers, heart disease and diabetes? (World
Health Organization)

With the WHO estimating that the average consumers’ diet is made up of 60% ultra-processed food, it can’t be said loud enough that sustainable eating or the Farm-to-Fork objective is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and for the long-term sustainability of our planet.

So, What is Farm-to-Fork? 

Farm-to-Fork is a social movement that supports the purchasing and consuming of food direct from the producer/farmer.

“It promotes the changing of our diets from highly processed food produced by industrial agriculture businesses, to minimally processed whole foods grown by small independent farmers and producers,” states Michael Smith, co-owner of The Harvest Market Bermuda, a small farm-direct grocer in Bermuda. “Farm-to-fork is an import aspect of developing more sustainable eating habits,” he adds.

The Harvard School of Public Health defines sustainable eating as: Diets with low environmental impacts that contribute to food and nutrition security and to a healthy life for present and future generations.

To put it more succinctly, Farm-to-Fork consumerism or sustainable eating has a positive impact on our environment, our economies, our health and our communities.

Farm-to Fork Supports Our Environment

Supporting local producers and buying seasonal produce and meats, are the fundamental goals behind the Farm-to-Fork movement, also called Farm-to-Table.

Large-scale industrial agriculture is often thought as the only way to solve the problem of feeding the world’s expanding population.  But did you know that small farmers actually provide our planet with 70% of the food we all consume and could provide more? (OXFAM)

Compared to industrial farming, properly managed small farms use ecologically sound farming practices, provide food sovereignty for the farmer and surrounding community, have higher yields, grow more biodiverse and resilient crops (which improve the soil and reduce the need for pesticides), have less waste, and supports the surrounding communities’ livelihood.

“Locally owned small farms cater to the cultural base of the neighborhood they serve. This is vital to the diverse character of our communities because they help ensure that economic power stays in the community to the greatest extent possible,” states Melissa King, US East Coast Farm Partnership Coordinator for The Harvest Market Bermuda.

“Just making the simple change of purchasing your food directly from local small farmers or purchasing from local businesses that are farm-direct grocery providers, will help to improve the financial strength of your community and help improve our local biomes and our planet’s long-term outcomes,” she added.

Seasonal Eating Improves the Planet and Our Health

Another important aspect of the Farm-to-Fork movement is the goal of having a greater portion of your diet coming from seasonally grown fruits and vegetables, and seasonally managed meat production from small farmers.

“Buying produce in season effectively reduces one’s carbon footprint tremendously,” states Martha Olander, small Bermuda farmer and owner of Hideaway Farm. “Likewise, it helps reduce the use of pesticides and preservatives, and even more so, if we focus on purchasing from organic farmers only.”

Additionally, studies have shown that many pesticides used by industrial agriculture are harmful to bees and are linked to Colony Collapse Disorder. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating $30 billion a year in crops. Without those bees, we would lose 70% of the crop species we currently grow that feeds 90% of the Earth’s population. (BBC)

Seasonal Meat Production

We can also switch to purchasing our meat direct from small farms that only process their animals seasonally. This not only helps to reduce the overall consumption of inhumanely raised factory farm animals, but it will decrease the amount of meat that is produced in environmentally harmful ways and lower your overall cost for food throughout the year.

Mr. Smith states, “If bulk purchasing is not an option for you because of the initial expense or lack of storage, then purchasing your meat from a farm-direct grocer, can also be an efficient alternative.”

Supporting Our Health

Farm-to-fork or sustainable eating has been shown to have significant positive impacts on our health.

Over the last 25 years, there has been a switch in our diets from eating minimally processed foods, to eating mostly ultra-processed foods. (Ultra-processed foods are foods that are industrially formatted mixtures.) These changes to eating habits have seen significant negative impacts on overall global health, showing a direct correlation to increased rates of obesity, cardio vascular diseases and diabetes.

Choosing to eat Farm-to-Fork and changing our purchasing habits is about the social and economic benefits it encourages. However, that doesn’t mean we have to give up all food coming from distant eco-regions or all highly processed food. Rather, it is about favoring local foods from small farmers when available, purchasing from farm-direct grocers whenever possible and decreasing the amounts of ultra-processed foods we keep in our diets.

Ms. King states, “If we each, individually, cut our meat consumption weekly by just ¼ and switch to more plant-based proteins, that ¼ drop in consumption will save about 82 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, hundreds of dollars on your personal yearly food bill and will reduce your personal risk of death from nutrition based diseases by 2%.”

Patronizing local farms and locally owned farm-direct businesses supports our local economy, preserves our cultural diversity and positively impacts the well-being of our people; sustaining vibrant livable communities and healthy ecosystems in the process.

4 Things You Can Do to Eat More Sustainably!

Transforming our diets to support our environment and our health can be a difficult option for many, as these changes can often seem impractical or financially impossible.

However, there are some inexpensive, small changes to our eating habits we can all make that supports our environment and our health.

1. Eat Less Meat

Did you know that 22% of our global fresh water supply is used for meat production?

Purchasing meat from small farmers and consuming less meat overall helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions and conserve our global fresh water supply.

In fact, plant-based proteins are less expensive and healthier. A recent study done by Massachusetts General indicated that just a 10% increase in meat consumption, showed a decrease in life expectancy by 2%!

2. Eat More Variety

More than 75% of the food we eat comes from just 12 plants and 5 different animal species! Industrial farming is bad for nature as it destroys the biodiversity necessary for sustainable food production. Small farmers grow more diverse crops using environmentally friendly farming practices; giving you more variety with less consequences. Greater diversity in our diets is essential to improved food security globally.

3. Cut Out Waste

Industrial agriculture produces significant amounts of waste and – puts enormous pressure on our environment. You can reduce waste in your own home by purchasing bulk meat seasonally and freeze it for consumption throughout the year as well as freezing fruits, vegetables and leftovers for consumption later. Buying loose produce, so you only purchase what you need, can also cut your waste and your costs!

4. Eat Less Ultra-Processed Foods

Eating less ultra-processed foods can show significant improvements to our health and to our environment.

Choose to cut out just ¼ of these products in your weekly diet using a stepped down approach. Start by switching to items that you can make better with more wholesome ingredients, like baked goods and only treat your family to these items when you can make them yourself.

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