The Third Option

Ever since I discovered my oil intolerance and found out that the oils I was eating were poisoning me, I have been doing more research and realizing that the human industrial food complex has some serious problems.

There is a lot of death that happens as a ‘side effect’ of industrial food.  I mean we all know that eating involves a certain amount of death. When we eat meat for example. Or pull up a radish or a beet. Those creatures died to allow us to keep on living. I don’t really see much of a difference between the life of an animal and the life of a plant in this context. But industrial food has more death than that. For each cow that we eat there are a lot of plants and animals that die in order to feed them.

If the cows eat corn or soy, those crops came from fields that were made by chopping down forest or mowing under grasslands that killed hundreds if not thousands of plants and animals. We also watered those fields and that was water that was taken away from other animals and plants that could have used it.  The fields have to be fertilized and covered with pesticides and herbicides to kill off any other plants or animals that want to eat the crops or take over the fields space. Those can leach into the soils and waters of the area causing more death and disease, after which the crops are harvested and shipped using the million year old carcasses of dinosaurs (oil) which when burned add toxins to our landscape that harm millions more plants and animals. In an industrial food system the death toll to grow plants is just as high as, the death toll to grow animals.

I found it depressing to think about and read about. I personally don’t see the difference between someone hiring a killer to kill a spouse and doing it themselves. In the end he’s dead. I wanted to stop being responsible for so much death. It seemed a catch 22 until I realized that there are other options outside of the conventional industrial food world.

I started buying more local and organic food because it at least didn’t add more toxins to the environment from transportation and chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Although organic farms still take away from wild habitats and use less harsh methods of killing pests. This made me feel better about my food but not enough better.

I live in a condo, so I can’t grow my own meat, but I started growing some of my own vegetables and herbs. Not a lot since I don’t have access to a lot of space. In growing food I realized there’s a lot of death that happens in gardening as well, both through weeding and pest killing. I do as little as possible, but I lose a lot of crops to other animals and bugs since killing things because they are eating my garden seemed the antithesis of what I was trying to accomplish.

And then I read about foraging. Basically foraging is eating what grows naturally around you. It’s amazing how many weeds and other plants are edible! They just grow out there in the lawns and the back gardens and wild spaces of our towns! Perhaps they are not the foods we are used to eating, but it is food. The best part of this is that most of the harvesting doesn’t kill the plants. Most of harvesting is trimming off a leaf or even just pulling off fruit or picking up nuts off the ground. No death at all! Some times a whole plant has to be taken but even there there is only one death. And when you carefully reseed your plant you make sure that their life lives on. I know that there are chemicals out there in the world; after all, one conventionally grown apple has had at least 12 sprays of chemicals to keep off bugs, mildews, and fungus. Still, the chemicals that live on the plants in my garden and neighborhood are being tracked into my house and fall all over my garden which I have no concerns about eating from, so I decided to try foraging.

I find myself feeling much better about my foraged food than my garden food. It is more work. Not everything is edible and not everything that is edible is yummy or easy to prepare. Its hard to learn enough. There are so many plants that I have walked past a thousand times without knowing their names or anything about them, and it is challenging to find the information I need. Discovering my own ignorance is not always a comfortable feeling. I can’t tell you how many times I have read a new foraging book only to look up and say, “But I see that plant all the time! I never knew it was edible!” Still I really enjoy walking around and looking at plants in a new way. I feel more connected to my world as I hunt down plant names and learn to recognize plants. I like spending more time outside and paying attention to how things grow and change over the course of seasons. I still garden and I still buy my meat at the local co-op but now I also forage and I’m happy to have found a kinder way to eat.

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