Monday, May 31, 2010

Healthy eating, locally

For most folks, food is easy. We go to the store, pick out some goodies and go home. Not a lot of thought goes into it beyond whether we can afford what we want. After all, vegetables are vegetables, right? And all those veggies are good for our bodies, right?

But some have begun to ask questions. Where did that green pepper come from? How about those apples? How were these cucumbers grown? How was the animal that became this steak treated during its life? And why do these tomatoes have that strange plastic taste 9 months of the year?

The healthfulness of food has come into question in recent years. Genetic modification, harsh pesticides and other issues have caused many to look closer at the food they eat. How far can one trust a faceless corporation that mass-produces food with little regard for the well-being of the animals raised, the soil being used and the water that is consumed? What effect does buying food produced 3,000 away have on the local economy, the local landscape and one’s wellness? And how sustainable, ultimately, is that?

Enter the local food producer.

An increasing number of people are utilizing their local farmer’s market for fresh, wholesome food. There’s a certain exhilaration that comes from picking out a choice carrot or radish bunch, looking up into the face of the farmer who harvested it just hours before and thanking them as you pay them for your prized find, confident that your purchase is healthful, real food. Knowing that you’ve contributed to your local economy rather than sent your dollars to a distant corporation, and made face-to-face contact with the people who help put food on your plate, is a fulfilling feeling.

Interest in “eating local,” in sustainable agriculture, in consuming foods grown and raised within one’s geographic region, is on the rise. In fact, the word “locavore” – one whose diet consists of food grown/produced locally – was selected by the New Oxford American Dictionary as its word of the year in 2007.

But interest in local foods brings with it questions of a different kind. What are the health benefits of locally grown or produced food? How exactly does my purchase of local food affect my region, my state, my community? And how do I even cook this stuff?

For those of us in upstate New York and the surrounding region, answers to these questions can be found at the Finger Lakes Farm to Table: Nourishing a Sustainable Finger Lakes Region conference, June 4 – 5, 2010, at the New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls, N.Y. With the aim of educating consumers about the health benefits of eating natural foods that are grown or produced within the Finger Lakes region, the conference will showcase new local food resources from exhibitors, teach how to cook the local harvest from professional chefs and hear about the issues concerning eating local from expert speakers.

On June 4 from 4-7 pm, attendees can partake of an evening of local food and wine tasting in an intimate gathering with exhibitors. And on June 5 from 10 am – 5 pm, cooking demonstrations and a farmer’s market will support the speakers and presentations who will talk about the benefits of eating local food.

Learn more about the conference by visiting