Posted by: Bill Stoneman | August 4, 2009

Where do baby spinaches come from?

This may seem odd to some, but the fact that food does not actually come from supermarkets and restaurants was not entirely clear to this writer until well into adulthood. And if you think about it, such ignorance is understandable.

If we wanted to stock the cupboard, we went to the store. If we didn’t want to prepare food ourselves, we went out, sometimes to places with drive-through windows.

Unfortunately, chances are that this line of thinking leads straight to a couple of the world’s most vexing problems: 1) All the king’s men and all the king’s technology can’t seem to stop us from packing on too many pounds. We have an obesity epidemic that is undermining everything else we know about health. 2) Oxygen depletion has just about eliminated all life from dead zones in the oceans – 405 of them as of August 2008, according to Scientific American. These zones primarily result from nitrogen-rich fertilizers washing from croplands into waterways. 3) We seem to be warming the atmosphere with our carbon emissions. 4). We’re eating more than we’re producing worldwide, according a June 2009 National Geographic article and thus drawing down our stock of food supplies.

Solving these challenges just might be slightly easier if more people understood more about where food comes from before it gets to the store or restaurant. Maybe, just maybe, some exposure to the taste of really fresh fruits and vegetables can stimulate some new thinking about how we eat. Combine that with exercise required to tend an organic garden and we might even improve a few people’s health. A few lessons in school about the composition of healthy soil and the requirements of different plants along with a bit of experience planting seeds and watching plants grow could give some of tomorrow’s scientists some of the perspective they’ll need to tackle the big issues ahead.

Mostly we think of agriculture-related courses as something for rural schools. Maybe we should adjust that notion some.

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