Transforming the Food System from the Ground Up

If you want to ensure access to wholesome, nutritious food, here are two projects that should be of interest to you.

First, consider getting a space this growing season in one of Sustainable Woodstock’s community gardens. We coordinate gardens at Billings Farm, the King Farm, the Riverside Mobile Home Park, and on land owned by Chippers in Pomfret. Community gardening is a wonderful way to collaborate with neighbors and learn about new techniques or varieties. You can trade produce and enjoy homegrown meals together.

As the Vermont Community Garden Network website (vcgn.org) puts it, community gardening “provides essential skills that people need to be active participants in the food system – to be producers, not just consumers. The results of growing food in community are impressive: neighbors develop friendships and support systems, children try (and like!) new foods, people of all ages gain new awareness of environmental issues, and neglected land is transformed into productive space that provides fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables.” VCGN asserts that these gardens are “part of the systemic change necessary to transform our food system.”  Sustainable Woodstock has been running this program since Anne Dean began the first community garden at King Farm in 2008. We hope that many more families and individuals in the Woodstock area will become involved in community gardens. Even if you have land for gardening at home, growing and enjoying fresh food together with neighbors is an enriching experience!  Plots cost only $35, which can be waived in cases of financial hardship. Each gardener agrees to maintain his or her own plot and to help maintain the garden as a whole by committing to two work days during the season.  To learn more contact Sustainable Woodstock at 457-2911, or email sally@sustainablewoodstock.org.

The other food-related project to know about is the GMO-labeling campaign that a coalition of Vermont organizations is pursuing. “GMO” means “genetically modified organism”; according to the coalition’s website  (vtrighttoknowgmos.org),  “A genetically engineered food is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered by the inclusion of genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria.” This scientific advance of the past decade benefits the industrial food system by making pesticides and herbicides more effective or improving the appearance or shelf life of food products.

However, this tampering with (and even corporate patenting of) the basic building blocks of life raises troubling legal and ethical issues and could have insidious effects on the environment and human health. Indeed, studies are beginning to show that GMO foods are likely to contain novel toxins, allergens, and other unwholesome substances. This is why more than 60 countries require engineered foods to be labeled, allowing consumers to choose whether to take such risks when they eat. But due to enormous legal and financial pressure from powerful corporations (such as Monsanto) and industry trade groups, labeling is not allowed in the U.S.

Vermont  legislators are considering a GMO labeling bill but they are intimidated by the threat of massive lawsuits. So the Vermont Right to Know GMOs campaign is working to build public support. They are showing a documentary film, GMO OMG, at various locations around the state, and brought it to Woodstock on March 22.

Jeremy Seifert, the film’s director, is a concerned father in search of answers. He wants to find out how GMOs affect our children, the health of our planet, and our freedom of choice. He wonders whether the industrial food system is so firmly entrenched that  it is no longer possible to avoid adulterated food. His discoveries about the corporate grip on the food system, and on the likely long term health effects of genetically adulterated food, are shocking, and demonstrate why it is vitally necessary to begin transforming our entire food system from the ground up.

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