If you want to make a one hundred percent sure-fire contribution to a better world, buy local. I constantly sing the praises of local food suppliers and I have listed the good, compelling reasons to get to know your local farmer and your local farmer’s market.
Here is a place to find your local resources, Eat Wild. Here are the farmer’s markets and local farmers in the Liberty, Missouri area, LocalHarvest. It is not hard to find the market in season. In the winter the pickings are slimmer, AS THEY SHOULD BE. Purchasing foods in season and preparing them for the winter is what we should be doing, how we should be eating. I do not want to discourage you, however, from eating good and pure foods. Eating produce trucked from Mexico or California or Peru (half way round the world), is still hundreds of times better for you than eating boxed, bagged, or processed foods. I don’t think that the perfect should be the enemy of the good. The fact that you have to buy vegetables at the market, and that that produce has ethical or chemical defects is no reason to keep eating Lunchables instead.
HOWEVER, today we read in the Los Angeles times, in a special report that will be four parts when complete, that there are gross ethical violations at Mexican farms for the workers that toil on the fields to get you plenty of your out of season vegetables.
- Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply.
- Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods.
- Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It’s common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest.
- Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors.
- Major U.S. companies have done little to enforce social responsibility guidelines that call for basic worker protections such as clean housing and fair pay practices.
These work conditions closely resemble the work conditions of 1900 US cities. Back then, and before Upton Sinclair woke the nation up to lousy food production and horrific worker conditions in the US, the worker bore all of the expense in keeping the company owners rich. The customer bore all of the expense at keeping the products cheap.
Money isn’t everything. It will definitely cost you more per tomato to buy from a local farm. It will cost you time, convenience and effort. You will get real food, picked at the height of freshness, grown in real soil, containing real nutrients in the exact proportions that nature intended. There will be no taint of slave-like labor conditions to plant, produce, or pick your foods. Call this food sin-free food. If I could label my farm-stand vegetables I would put in big, huge font letters “Sin-Free, No-Added-Sugar, No-Artificial-Ingredients”
Think about what you are really promoting when you pay way less than you should for foods shipped halfway around the planet to get to you so cheaply at Walmart. What kind of world are you encouraging? Even if you don’t care about the peons in the labor camps in South America and Mexico, what you are buying only resembles the foods grown by your neighbors.
You–every individual you–are the only one with the power to compel Mexican ranch owners to treat their labor the way that you would want to be treated. You won’t do it thru your government which cares even less about Mexican farm hands than it does American ones. You won’t do it by writing letters to Del Monte or Best Choice. Price Chopper supermarket can’t make it happen. Only by switching your buying dollars to your local farmer will you help the poor Mexican peasant. Shining light on their nineteenth century labor practices will help, but turning off the cash will help even more.