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June 18, 2018  |  Login
The Foodlover's Guide to Finding the Best Food
By Jeff Cox
It’s vitally important to know your growers and suppliers. Here are several correlates if you want truly great-tasting, fresh food. Like all generalizations, there are exceptions, but for the most part, these rules hold true:
The Smaller the Farm, the Better the Food  
Chances are that at small family farms, more care will be taken with the produce, the meat and milk animals, and the farm itself. At very large factory farms, produce and animals are commodities. There’s a machine designed expressly to machine-harvest every crop. Things are done by a schedule, including the application of agrichemicals. Small farmers, on the other hand, are much less regimented. They get “up close and personal” with their crops and animals. Their chickens are more likely to live in a pen by a henhouse, eat vegetable scraps and insects they find by scratching in the soil, and enjoy their lives than to live crammed together into cages under round-the-clock lights like agribusiness chickens. Which eggs do you think make the best omelets?
The Closer the Farm to Your Table, the Better the Food
The more local the food, the better, for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s going to be fresh and in season; it’s going to exhibit all the flavor it’s capable of. Because it doesn’t have to sit in trucks and railcars and on supermarket shelves for weeks, it can be one of those delicious but fragile varieties that doesn’t ship well. It can be picked ripe, instead of harvested hard and green and then gassed into obtaining color (but not flavor) on the long journey to the super-market.

Also, the shorter the distance from the farm to your table, or at least to the market, the greater the chance you’ll meet the person who actually grew the food. You’ll be able to ask him or her questions about how the food is grown.
The Smaller and Closer the Farm, the Better the Effect on the Environment 
There are environmental benefits to shortening those supply lines: Less fuel is used in transporting and storing the food. And local small farmers tend to be organic because they’re farming their own land, and they don’t want to expose themselves and their families to noxious chemicals. They also tend to be your neighbors and can be held accountable for their practices by their fellow citizens. If your neighborhood dairy is polluting the local creek by spreading raw manure on frozen soil (which allows it to run off into the local watersheds), you can do something about it. If your milk comes from cows penned on a thousand acres a thousand miles away, you won’t even know about its environmental problems.
Small farmers who own their own land also have a deep relationship with that land and a regard for it. They know where the pheasants nest and may decide not to plow there during those times of year when the birds are raising their young. They can see the effects of their husbandry on the ecology of the natural world and the farm world as these worlds intertwine and affect one another. Factory farms tend to plow every inch that can be plowed, from fencerow to fencerow, without regard for the niceties of nature. Small farmers can be held accountable if there’s something wrong with their produce. If there’s something wrong with the crops from factory farms, and you try to talk to the person responsible, you’ll be passed up the ladder of command until you reach someone who’s either unavailable or surrounded by platoons of PR people to smooth-talk you or lawyers to sue you if you get too close.

Good luck.

The Shorter the Time from Harvest to Eating, the Better the Food

Although you may want to age your beef, cheese, and wine, and hang your game, most foods taste best and have the most nutrients when they’re just picked or freshly killed. They taste better and have the most nutrients when it is allowed to develop fully on the plant it grows on. If you could graph the flavor development of a tree-ripened peach on a bell curve, the very highest point of the curve would be the moment it’s picked dead-ripe from the tree. more



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