Path to the Plate

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Last Monday evening I was glad to be a part of an excellent program that provided factual, research-based information to help folks understand the “path” their food takes from the farm to their plate.

Many thanks to the help that was given by three outstanding 4-Hers with the recipe demonstrations: Rozalinn Runnels, Holden Boulware, and Taylor Castillo. They helped show participants how to prepare pork tenderloin Diane, roasted green beans with baked potato, and blueberry minis.

We heard from Craig and Julie Wood who own and operate Wood Blueberry Farm. They generously gave of their time to share how they got started, what pests they have to fight off the blueberries and the extensive effort they take with sorting and culling to ensure what they send to the local grocer is of utmost quality and flavor.

More than 96% of farms are family owned. In Texas alone, there are 242,000 farming operations. I find it confusing that we highlight businesses that grow to be large, successful corporations. But let a family farm be too successful that they hire too many employees, purchase too much equipment, then get legal status as a corporation, and they somehow fall out of favor.

Land-wise, Texas farms operate on over 130 million acres. This is land they depend of for crops and livestock that in turn provide income and sustainability for the family farm. Any notion that farmers and ranchers work against the land and abuse it doesn’t make sense. It would be like a trucking company deciding not to maintain their fleet of trucks. That’s nonsense.

Regarding environmental concerns and food safety, there already exist strict laws and regulations that place restrictions on usage of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides within our food supply. The agencies that govern foods and farming practices include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and several branches of the Department of Agriculture, to name a few.

And when we talk about our own personal health, our health is largely dependent on what we eat. I may have inherited certain traits from my mom and dad, but the choices of what I consume is up to me.

In our state, the leading causes of death are chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease and chronic liver disease. Seven of the top 10 causes of death can be directly linked to lifestyle choices, and at least five of those diseases can be reduced through better food choices.

As much as we may want to blame our genetics or outside factors, much of our health is in our own hands.

When health correlates to healthy food, then health is directly tied to agriculture. We enjoy such an incredibly safe food supply. If a person is consuming safe, healthy foods, their risks for developing disease are reduced.

Much of the struggle faced by consumers is sorting the facts from fiction. Myths and misinformation about food production and its effect on our health emerges ever-so-quickly through social media and other sources. This misinformation leads to misunderstanding of our agriculture systems and the positive connection these farms have to our health.

Clearly, more effort needs to be made to sort thru the glutton of “information” that is out there. The program last week may have not have made a huge different across the state, but if we made a positive impact with one person, if just one more individual can recognize healthy and nutritious food for what it is, then we’ve made a difference.

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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