By Gabe Sturges
Perhaps one of the most noticeable aspects of society is our complex relationship with food, spanning the gambit from the simplest family get-togethers to the most decadent catered affairs. However, in the 21st century, a need and want so universal never had more criticism. Reaching a peak in the 90s and early 2000s, there has been a call to arms amongst the populace regarding the importance of not only eating delectably but eating well.
In an attempt to unearth a general consensus, I ambled down to the Schenectady Farmer’s Greenmarket, the home of the “locavores,” to ask local farmers and agri-businessmen what they think about this new change in what goes on the daily dinner plate.
As shown in myriad films and books—The Omnivore’s Dilemma and An Inconvenient Truth come to mind—present-day food discussion not only centers on us, but is equally important on the environment. On that front, no term has become more in vogue than sustainability—providing an ethical approach to extracting the Earth’s natural resources.
According to Larry of Skinner’s Sugarbush maple syrup, sustainability is at the forefront of his business. All maple trees used are grown without pesticides and fertilizers, and each tree is only tapped with one spile in an effort to damage the tree as little as possible. Ilyssa of Paint Goat Farm, an operation producing cheese and meat, concurred. She feels the quality of the food is directly influenced by the life of the animals and, as such, she often takes her goats on walks and lets them roam free over the 100 acres of pasture. Also, the feed she uses is “in a real state, less processed, which in turn affects the end product.”
Additionally, in an attempt to preserve natural plant varieties, Ilyssa uses non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) feed. Not only preserving the delicate natural ecosystems, it assures both the animals and humans are not subjected to possible repercussions of genetically altered food.
Richard, of Moon and River Café, seconds Ilsyssa’s emphasis on organic and GMO-free food, imploring people to “eat real—don’t eat processed or corporate food and try to avoid genetically processed food.” Richard continued, eloquently stating that if “greed is the main system of motivation, we are doomed.”
Our true goals must be those of human health and development through healthy food, not the economic benefits behind it.
Richard also promotes the vegetarian diet and its four tenets, namely: human health, kindness to animals, human justice and the preservation of the environment.
Among the three artisans interviewed, all shared a strikingly similar approach to the alteration of the American diet, in which one can eat very cheaply but very poorly. According to Larry, Americans need to return to more wholesome foods—fish, fruits and vegetables—with an emphasis on homemade.
Richard also emphasized greens, going so far as to suggest eating them in the raw: “Your big meal every day should be a salad.” Ilyssa touts the importance of using whole, fresh foods and if eating meat, using the whole of the animal. In short, “people should eat real food raised well.”