(NaturalNews) For the past 50 years, an overwhelming amount of farmland in the US has become concentrated into the hands of the few, as the idea of monoculture has expanded industrial farming practices.
According to international land use group GRAIN, large industrial farms now control around 75 percent of the world's farmland but only produce about 30 percent of the world's food(3). Industrial farms may succeed in producing genetically modified commodity crops, but they are inefficient in providing a nutrient dense selection of whole foods because they do not utilize biodiversity in nature. By only producing 30 percent of the world's food, farmland controlled by corporately patented seed is being inefficiently misused. To make matters worse, the land is often abused, as mass application of pesticides transforms ecosystems.
Number of farmer's markets across the US growing steadily for two decades
The good news is - individuals and small farmers have pushed back in the past two decades, making local food more available by resurrecting new farmer's markets.
According to the USDA's National Count of Farmer's Market Directory Listings, in 1994, there were 1,755 farmers markets across the US. Since then, the amount has raised steadily each year. Two decades later, there are now 8,144 registered farmer's markets!
But not all food at farmer's markets is organic, pesticide free, or even local.
Some of the food is hauled in from afar and may still be lathered in toxic pesticides, or be derived from transgenic seeds.
Here are four important questions to ask vendors at your local farmer's market
Is the food you're selling local or from a larger wholesale market?
Some vendors at farmer's markets actually aren't local but travel from market to market, sometimes crossing state lines, selling wholesale produce. Sometimes these vendors pull up to the market with large amounts of produce and sell straight from the back of a truck. Just because it's sold at a farmer's market, doesn't mean it's local. It could come from a larger distributor.
Where do you get your seeds from and are they heirloom?
Heirloom means that the seed has been used in the family year after year or for generations. It has never been genetically modified and patented by a corporation or used industrially. Heirloom seeds represent a much wider variety of plants, colors, textures, appearance, and flavors. Some people believe that a true heirloom seed predates 1945, before hybrid varieties hit the open market.
Do you use pesticides and how much do you use?
Some local growers and family farmers strictly use no pesticides and bring chemical free produce to the local market. This is the best food, even though it may show signs of pest damage. Some small growers admit to using pesticides, but only sparingly. Others use chemicals like glyphosate without caution, not understanding its risks.
Do you use organic growing methods; is your farm certified organic?
According to USDA's National Organic Program, if a grower earns less than $5,000 a year, they can legally market their produce as organic, as long as they keep records to prove they are organic. This leaves small growers with little accountability, but at this level honesty and trust is most important. It's good to know your local farmers. For bigger farms claiming to be organic, a USDA-accredited third party is required to certify the farm as organic and check up on very detailed records regarding farming practices.
About the author: Lance Johnson is a passionate researcher, learner, writer, and healer. Lance and his wife invite you to check out their line of clean and conscious body care products at www.allnaturalfreespirit.com.