Our food shouldn't travel more than we do

Time for more island grown

Maura Curley

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Bite into a piece of fruit and think about its origin. What about tonight’s dinner?

You might realize that tomatoes don’t grow wrapped in cellophane. But do you have a clue about the nature of your other vegetables, fruit bread, fish, and especially meat?

"Food shouldn’t travel more than we do. Yet most of it takes a circuitous and sometimes scary route to our table.

Organic markets, local farms and movies like Food Inc. have done a lot to raise our awareness that locally grown tastes better and is a lot safer.

Still it’s more novelty that the norm.

We’re stuck on the stuff on the supermarket shelves with additives and chemicals we can’t pronounce let alone digest.

A while back I came across an in flight magazine with a story, which focused on a growing number of statesiders committed to eating only foods produced within their region. This movement gained momentum from a book. "Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food" written by Professor Gary Paul Nabhan. The book chronicled his year-long quest to eat only foods produced within a 200-mile radius of his home in Arizona’s Sonoran desert.

The statistics for trekking food across the country, let alone from the mainland to the Caribbean, could be enough make you lose your appetite.

Richard Pirog of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University has calculated that produce travels an average of 1,500 miles in three days to reach his state. This continent wide distribution system for food uses many times the fossil fuel and emits much more carbon dioxide than a locally food based system.

Ironically, here in this tropical climate we import much of what we consume.

Why can we utilize more island grown?

St. Croix, the largest of the Virgin Islands, has deep agricultural roots. Puerto Rico also has rich farmlands. Yet the island imports almost 90 percent of its food, leaving farmers to look for markets for what they grow. Grenada produces a golden crop of spices, especially nutmeg, which it exports around the world. More green neighbors like the Dominican Republic, Dominica, and St. Lucia could keep islanders – and even a healthy tourist population well fed.

Why can’t we strive to create a food culture that is at least 85 percent Caribbean grown?

Does it really make any sense to be dependent upon shipping thousands of tons of food from the mainland?

Why can’t we fund and patronize more farmers and educate more people about agriculture? Why can’t we create more specialties made in the Caribbean food products with our abundance of coconuts, mangos and lesser-known delicacies like soursop, and tamarind?

Locally grown food is better for our bodies and the Caribbean economy. It would increase Caribbean tourism too.

Let’s encourage our visitors to experience local fruits, roots, breads, poultry and meat- all preservative free in ‘paradise.’

Photo: Produce at the organic market in Old San Juan courtesy Mercado Agricola Natural Viejo San Juan. For more information about the market click here.

"Food shouldn’t travel more than we do.™" is a trademark of Virgin Voice Publications

Maura Curley is publisher of www.virginvoices.com

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