In his latest book “Life Inc.,” writer and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff tells a tale about a world that has been consumed by corporate culture describing in detail this phenomenon within local communities, and how to take them back from ‘corporate invasion’ while illustrating the history of the corporation itself.
Consumers often over look sensible alternatives and a community-based way of life in exchange for a system that has never looked out for their best interests.
In this sense the consumer is it’s own worst enemy, committing self-betrayal because of a simple lack of understanding of the basic principles of economics within local community. It’s supply and demand for the most vital of resources; food, and the ability to obtain it in a clean and efficient manner.
For instance, Southern Florida and the Palm Beach county area is a bastion for fresh fruit and vegetable production. The statistics in this arena are heavy hitting and impressive. Here are some taken directly from Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
- Florida has 47,500 commercial farms, using a total of 9.25 million acres.
- Florida ranks second in the value of vegetable production.
- Florida ranks first in cash receipts for oranges, grapefruit, fresh snap beans, sweet corn, watermelons, fresh cucumbers, squash and sugarcane.
- Florida ranks second in the production of greenhouse and nursery products.
- Florida accounts for 65 percent of total U.S. citrus production.
- Nationally, Florida ranks 11th in beef cows.
- Florida ranks seventh in agricultural exports with $3.1 billion.
- Florida is the world leader in phosphate rock production, annually producing 65 percent of the U.S. supply and 10 percent of the world supply.
If you’re looking for a land where there is an abundance of locally grown, healthy food, and you live in South Florida, then welcome to paradise. So why doesn’t this feel so obvious?
First, consider the facts about the current status of health in the U.S. The surgeon general says that obesity contributes to “the number-one cause of death in our nation: heart disease” and that obesity itself has surpassed smoking as the leading cause of preventable death. Laziness in constructing our diets have helped in creating dire health consequences.
America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. According to the World Heath Organization, America is leading the charge in obesity, while the journal “Obesity” says that by 2025, 80% percent of Americans will be overweight.
Most people would think that poverty and being overweight are two contradictory states of being, but income inequality in America, the increasing divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, is at an all time high. According to the OECD, the U.S. tops the list of developed nations experiencing alarming levels of income inequality, not to mention the state of our economy is still rife with uncertainty.
There’s a direct connection to diets, health, economy, and community. It’s obvious when considering the facts. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to consider diet itself, because this area has been so entrenched with ideas that already have a heavy stigma surrounding them, such as the Paleo-diet, vegetarianism, vegan-ism, pescetarianism and everything in between. They all have their strong points and weaknesses. The merits of such have been and are debated incessantly to those concerned.
Instead, to help draw conclusions in a different manner, visualize a simple thought experiment: pretend that the ‘Supermarket’ doesn’t exist. Pretend there are no more Walmarts. Just for a moment imagine what life would be like without these establishments acting parental in our communities.
Would you be helpless to find food? Is there not plentiful resources in Palm Beach County to feed the people? The ability to take advantage of Florida’s healthy agricultural industry, outside of the ‘Supermarket’, is obvious. If the previous set of statistics don’t sway a consumer they are only further bolstered by these stats obtained from Agriculture in the Classroom, Inc.:
- 95 percent of commercial orange production in the state is destined for processing, mostly as orange juice.
- Greenhouse and nursery products are Florida’s top leading crops financially yielding $1.93 billion in 2008. Florida ranks 2nd nationally for these products.
- Florida ranks 2nd in US production of fresh vegetables and provides 80% of the fresh vegetables consumed in the US during January, February, and March each year.
- Florida ranks 4th in the southeast and 11th nationally in the production of beef calves.
- Florida is consistently ranked in the top 12 states in fresh seafood production.
- Florida ranks 9th nationally for total agricultural sales in the United States.
- The second largest industry in the state is agriculture. Tourism is the largest industry within the state.
Solving the riddle of the economy and it’s woes overnight is impossible, but tackling the conundrum within the fridge and cupboard, and maybe shaving inches off the waste-line is relatively easy, and all the while contributing to potentially burgeoning economies within local towns and cities.
Under these auspices, the connection and the benefits are clear. When shopping at local markets, the money spent goes to local businesses, not a major corporation, but companies that are agriculture and farm-based within your community, within Southern Florida and, more specifically, Palm Beach County.
Here’s a list of Farmer’s markets by region in Florida. These companies represent the crux of American ingenuity and hard work using a tried and true method of production, and for every dollar you receive a larger portion of healthy foods at a more reasonable cost.
Not only is it frugal living at a time when everyone is looking to maximize the potential of their earnings in anyway possible, but it’s a healthier alternative. For the reduced pricing, the buyer receives fresh and ‘non-genetically engineered’ vegetables, as well as grass fed pork, poultry and beef that’s not stuffed with steroids and antibiotics.
While plush with options, the future of easily obtained fresh produce and fruit in Florida is still, believe or not, uncertain, when the states Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program, which “provides funding to schools so they can provide a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to students three to five days per week outside the breakfast and lunch service,” is under threat, according to a recent Sun Sentinel article:
“Adding frozen fruits and vegetables would allow school nutritionists to serve them year-round at affordable cost,” said Corey Henry, spokesman for the American Frozen Food Institute. “There are plenty of opportunities here for schools to stretch their valuable budget dollars. Maybe they can serve more if they have that option.”
“We’re not looking at this as an economic driver,” he said of the $164-million fresh snack program. “It’s an opportunity to make sure schools can conserve dollars and to show that frozen food can play an important role in eating healthy. If we are excluded, what does that tell people?”
The fact that kid’s can’t get introduced to even a marginal amount of healthy alternatives to mass produced foods without having that experience infringed upon by the lobbying interests of major corporations is indicative of our corporatist culture.
Another stark contrast to Florida’s powerful, health-conscious agricultural industry is that genetically modified foods and vegetables in our supermarkets do not have to be labeled as such, in addition to the fact that they have not been tested as safe for mass consumption, thanks in part to the Food and Drug Administration allowing it and largely because of companies like Monsanto, the worlds leading biotech and agricultural corporation, and their healthy lobbying arm.
Essentially speaking, when it comes to shopping for fruits and vegetables we are the test patients in the market of GM(generically modified) and biotech foods and the delivery system is your local supermarket. How are we to know how these GM and biotech foods will effect us and the next generation who are growing up consuming it daily?
The answer is unclear. We don’t know the potential results. It’s up to each person to take responsibility for what they and their loved ones consume.
South Florida is a beautifully diverse and wonderfully authentic area of the country with it’s own very specific economy and culture. Every consumer in Southern Florida has seen and heard of the types of businesses mentioned here during their commute and throughout their experience in Palm Beach County. You’ve all talked to your neighbors, colleagues, and friends about them as well.
Healthy living while supporting local business in Palm Beach County is easy because of the abundant resources available. Local consumers, who are responsible for supporting their communities and their own interests, need but to open the door to access this wellspring.