I’ve been off-farm as much this year as I was when I worked as a carpenter. It’s much harder to stay grounded and eat well when I’m on the go. There is a double-edge sword in which the psyche/ego craves fulfillment from purchasing snackytreats or cold fizzy beverages. I crave the sugar-salt-fat, but also the psychological fulfillment of the purchase-something-I-want-transaction.
The reward-fulfillment cycle is a subtle but insidious behavioral contribution to the consumer complex, and is little understood outside of the food-product-marketing and retail industries. Turns us all into suckers; doesn’t matter what your human archetype taste bud preference is, there are products marketed at you if you’re looking. It’s hard not to look.
We are programmed to want things that have been manipulated with great care and detail to make us want them and to feel deprived if we don’t get them. This is built in as tiny children while we walk past the sugar-salt-fat snackytreats placed right at our height, marketing addiction to little people from the first time they walk through the grocery. The grocery store is the summation of innate, collective food desires run amuck by corporations who cannot compete on a qualitative scale. Flashy branding, packaging, marketing, extra sugar, salt and chemicals that send signals to your brain “that tastes good eat more” addict us to the purchase-consume-discard paradigm. It feels better to buy something from the store than to eat my tupperware of homecook. I struggle with this, often returning from a trip with a bellyful of crap and a tuppy untouched.
The human body is a high-performance machine, designed to run on quality ingredients that came from natural settings. The modern, American lifestyle deprives us of the fuel that built our species. Different folks have different food needs, but all people will perform better on a diet of fresh, quality food sources.
In my teens and early twenties, I hadn’t keyed into the mind-body-food connection. I ate without thought, and suffered a variety of ills that I didn’t understand. It wasn’t until a friend pointed the connections between my congestion, lack of sense of smell, and digestive issues that I began a path to knowledge. She saw the symptoms of allergic reaction, noting that childhood food allergies do not just “go away”. Ten years later, I’m healthier than I have ever been, but food is a struggle. We become so addicted to processed foods that it’s a lifetime of struggle, as with any addiction.
Deliberate policies have denied the average citizen the tools needed to assess food in qualitative fashion. Propagating the belief that “an egg is an egg is an egg”, we create justification for large-scale processing and the manufacturing of food “products”. These amalgamations filled with chemicals keep humans in constant cycles of carbohydrate spike/crash and the continued reverberations.
We are all familiar with the sugar rush, but what is not often understood is that the initial spike reverberates like aftershocks through the adrenal functions of the body. These cycles happen with most meals/snacks, meaning that the body is in perpetual twanging confusion from storms of epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Thyroids and hormonal processes cannot keep up with the constant deluge. We overstimulate and overconsume without nourishing. We crossed over the Quality-Quantity barrier with food when we stopped knowing where it comes from.
Food doesn’t come from soulless corporations, and it damn sure isn’t packaged in fancy, individualized plastic wrappers. We’re all slaves of sugar-salt-fat and marketing. Behavioral specialists have targeted each human archetype so that the shelves hold something for everyone. Try going to the store and not buying anything; no trigger for the rewards systems built into the brain means less serotonin. Preprogramming; how many commercials live in our brains?
So what can we do? The system is huge; monolithic. But it’s built on profit margins that require massive participation. Every day is an opportunity to seek out space to plant some lettuces or herbs. If we treat food like our ancestors, it becomes a treasure hunt for the best options.
They joy of being part of a connected food network fulfills a deep human need has been stripped from us like the nutrients in processed flour. To know and understand the sources of our food, and to participate in their production, preservation and preparation is a vast part of what it has meant to be human.
There is a small-farm and urban gardening revolution underway in this country. You can be part of it as a participant on many levels with the smallest decisions you make every day. I’m not asking for a dramatic change, but a slow shift. Set goals that you think you can accomplish, like going to a farmers market twice a month and talking to at least one farmer. You don’t have to be a farmer to be supportive of farmers in ways that make a tremendous difference; caring about farmers and talking about quality food production is a huge contribution.
We need more farmers and gardeners. We need more neighbors sharing produce; we need to see suburban mini-farms maintaining qualitative, localized production and providing sources of quality to urban centers. We need rooftop and community gardens in urban spaces, funded and maintained by dedicated social programs. Together, we will apply micro-scale cultivation techniques on small acreages to increase localized productivity. This means we will help to feed the world by returning the focus to the small-farm. This is the UN Year of the Small Farm. They need our support, and we can do it, together. Much Love from HappyDay Farms :)