Local produce carries many perks
All of us buy groceries, but most of us don’t think about where our food comes from.
Last Organic Outpost, a non-profit organization focused on advancing urban agriculture in the Houston area, states on its Web site the average mouthful of food in the U.S. travels 1,300 miles before it is eaten.
The distance food travels to reach us has a significant impact on the environment.
Locally grown foods are eaten sooner after harvesting, so the produce does not need added preservatives or chemical ripening agents. As a result, the food is fresh and tastes better.
A healthy local food system, such as the Last Organic Outpost Garden, also helps create a prosperous local economy. Small local farms preserve precious open space and connect urbanites with the real sources of our food. Buying locally helps these farms survive.
The garden, located in Fifth Ward, is a demonstration project of building a garden farm in the inner city.
Joe Nelson Icet started the garden in November 2001 on an abandoned piece of land in an industrial area near downtown. Since then, it has continued to expand with the help of devoted volunteers.
The Last Organic Outpost was created to be a beautiful agricultural park in the inner city and a community of people helping people to learn about health and nutrition. Its goal is to promote self-reliance for other communities by learning how to grow the food people eat every day.
If stimulating the economy isn’t enough incentive to buy locally, perhaps preserving the environment is.
The Last Organic Outpost claims locally produced foods are better for the environment, because the transportation of food for a few miles instead of thousands aids in reducing fossil fuel emissions contributing to air pollution.
Local growers use fewer pesticides than large commercial farms, which have to rely on stringent methods in order to preserve their product through the process of harvesting and transportation. Fewer pesticides mean less water pollution, human health risks and a healthier environment.
The Last Organic Outpost’s biggest fear is the pesticides used to grow our food might someday prove to be carcinogenic, as DDT was discovered to be a generation ago.
In 1999, Icet became involved with a start-up permaculture group in Houston called SEED (Sustaining the Earth through Environmental Design). Icet’s son strongly encouraged him to stay with SEED.
In January 2000, he moved to a new house and started his backyard garden, which became the focus of all his time and money. This backyard garden expanded onto several adjacent, abandoned lots.
Dubbing it ‘urban farming,’ Icet spent $1,000 on building a shed and nearly $17,000 during a six-year period to bring in dirt to build raised beds. This inspired many in the community and people began joining him.
Dr. Floyd Atkins began his involvement with the garden and shares his passion for sound nutrition as a path to health.
Nancy Sorenson, a local live foods chef and yoga teacher, came on board in November of the same year, as did Pat Greer, who began teaching live foods preparation classes in the garden. On the third Wednesday of every month, The Last Organic Outpost has a meeting to discuss the formation of the Urban Farm Belt, 5th Ward district.
Urban Farm Belt is a growing effort between Urban Harvest, Recipe For Success, Central City Co-op, Texas Together, Pat Greer’s Ya-Ya Raw Foods, Ken Crimmin’s Farmart Industries and the Last Organic Outpost.’
Everyone is welcome to participate in this collaboration.
Matthew Keever is a communication junior and may be reached at [email protected].