Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Mono-Cropping Monster

Growing up in a rural farming community in Vermont, I've seen first-hand the benefits of small farms. I've known intuitively that local farms produce better produce for consumers and better outcomes for the farmers and their workers. In my house, “factory farms” is a curse word used to describe the evil corporations who are financially ruining our friends, harming our health, and suing our state. I've always felt this way, but I'd never actually seen these monstrosities until our visits to the plantations.

Finca Sura, the organic pineapple plantation, was idyllic, as evidenced by the reactions of my classmates. It was astonishingly beautiful, the samples were divine, and we all seemed to walk around in a daze of happiness. It's obvious when one tastes such produce that there is a difference in product quality based on how far food travels.

A few days later, when we went to the large-scale banana plantation, I heard utterances of shock all around me. We drove past miles and miles of banana trees with no plant diversity in sight. Each bunch of bananas was surrounded by a bag of chemicals and more chemicals were being sprayed from an airplane. We ended up moving our talk into the bus because the chemical plane was coming closer and we were concerned about inhaling...yet we eat these crops every day. Later, during our faculty led project, we stopped at a large pineapple plantation and watched a tractor spraying the fields. We debated whether it was spraying water or chemicals, because it seemed like way too much substance for it to be chemicals, until the scent hit us and it became clear that it was definitely not water.

I know it's unrealistic in our world today to eliminate food produced on a large-scale from our diets, but I have to admit that I was very struck by these experiences. It's one thing to have talked about it my whole life in an abstract sense; it's totally different, and much more powerful, to see it in action. As scary as it was to acknowledge these realities about our foods, I'm glad we did. It's too easy these days to ignore where our food comes from, yet I think it's an important factor to consider. We are putting these things into our bodies; it doesn't get much more personal than that. We have a right to know what we are consuming, but we also have a responsibility to care. For the sake of our health, our futures, and our planet, we have a responsibility to look at what we are growing and eating and think about the implications.

Krcmar Rachel

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