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cies,” have “statistically different nutrient contents.” In other words, each variety promises a unique mix of health- protecting compounds.


Supermarkets must rely on crops and animal products that can withstand long- distance travel and also meet uniform appearance standards. Small farmers serving local markets, on the other hand, can bet- ter preserve the legacy of biologically diverse heirloom crops and heritage breeds because of the shorter distances between field and plate. An heirloom tomato picked ripe at peak


Changing the by Melinda Hemmelgarn K


entucky farmer and writer Wen- dell Berry states that in order for people to care about their food,


“They have to taste it.” Tasting the difference between fresh, local, organic foods and those that travel hundreds or thousands of miles before touching our taste buds is catalyzing a healthy change across America. Consider the growth in patron- age of farmers’ markets alone: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports the number of markets has soared, from 1,755 in 1994 to 7,175 in 2011. What’s driving the surge? Incentives include our appreciation of scrumptious seasonal flavor, a comforting sense of community and the


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reassurance of knowing exactly where our food comes from and who—often on a first-name basis—grew or produced it. Good, healthy food germinates in genuine relationships—between grow- ers and consumers, and farmers and the Earth. Local markets boost hometown economies, too; the USDA predicts a record $7 billion in such food sales this year, delivering a greater proportion of food dollars directly to farmers. Regional food systems also support the biological diversity that is vital to sustainability. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organiza- tion, “different varieties of the same spe-


Way America Eats Nourishing the Shift to Farm-Fresh Foods


flavor can’t survive a lengthy com- mute, but nothing tastes better when it’s plucked fresh from the vine and still warm from the sun. Planting diverse, region-specific crops also reduces the burden of weeds, pests and plant diseases—and any related chemical use—and helps provide safe nourishment for pollina- tors and wildlife, as well. No wonder the Organic Farming Research Founda- tion characterizes farmers as the largest group of ecosystem managers on Earth. Everyone can support a cause that feeds us well while caring for the planet.


Farmers’ Job Market With 57 being the current average age of American farmers, and more than a quarter 65 or older, the National Sustain- able Agriculture Coalition recognizes the desperate need for more young farm- ers. When the National Young Farmer’s Coalition recently surveyed 1,000 beginning farmers, it found that access to capital, land and health insurance presented the biggest hurdles to entering farming as a career. The Women, Food and Agriculture Network has identified access to health care as the main chal- lenge facing females that want to farm. While city dwellers tend to ideal- ize farming as a romantic occupation in a bucolic setting, it is actually a risky, physically demanding job. Despite the


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