Here at AWA, we’ve been thinking a lot about this special holiday and how we may have more in common with our ancestors than we think. Upon arriving in America, the early pilgrims ate what was locally available (granted, they didn’t have an alternative!). This happened to be animals that ranged and foraged in the woods and pastures, eating a diet specific to their natural needs and free from non-therapeutic antibiotics or added hormones. Sounds like a Certified AWA farm, doesn’t it? Meat, dairy, and eggs from animals raised outdoors on pasture or range is better for you, better for farmers, and better for the planet all great reasons to give thanks.
Whether it’s the regular tweets of the big-name food pundits or the countless anonymous contributors to online food discussions, an astonishing amount of advice is now dished out on what food we should buy and where we should buy it. While much of this guidance is sound and reasonable, some of it is wildly inaccurate or just downright unrealistic. Take the latest mantra that cropped up in an online discussion that I was following: ‘Before you buy any food you should go and visit the farm, because that will answer all your questions.’ Buying direct from the farm or at the farmers’ market is something I wholeheartedly enjoy supporting. In doing so, my family hasn’t bought into the appalling practices of industrial agriculture; we’ve used our dollars to support local farms - and the food usually tastes great, too. But is it realistic to expect every conscientious consumer to have the time and ability to actually visit the farm first – let alone the expertise to assess what they see when they get there?
One of the things I love most about my job as program director at Animal Welfare Approved is that I get to meet people who are literally changing the world from the ground up. Ron Finley is the perfect example, except that he’s not the typical farmer or rancher whom I usually meet. He grows fruit and vegetables on an urban community garden: a 10ft by 150ft strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb in front of his house in Crenshaw, south central Los Angeles. I bumped into Finley at the recent Good Food Festival in Santa Monica, CA. We got talking and he told me about his recent successful fight with city bureaucrats over his community garden and the grassroots initiative he’s set up to help urban communities to grow healthy, organic food for themselves. From the outset I liked the man, and we were clearly fighting the same fight, just on very different fronts. His story was as inspirational as anything I had seen or heard before.
The Pride of New York Retail Promotion Grant program is working to help NY consumers identify food items from New York State. Their aim is to help increase sales for both NY farmers and retailers. State Acting Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine says, “Consumer awareness and interest in buying local food has increased dramatically in recent years…This program will provide valuable assistance to retailers to help them source more local New York products as well as necessary resources to develop customized promotional materials that highlight local businesses. We are pleased to offer this financial opportunity that will support the New York State economy and benefit all sides of the equation, including retailers, farmers, food processors and consumers alike.”