Consider the Effects of Pesticides on Your Food Choices

Blog post by SEL Intern and UNH Student Samantha Lent

Pesticides are substances used to repel or kill plants and animals that are pests to the crop. There are different types of pesticides: chemical pesticides and biopesticides. Chemical pesticides include organophosphates and carbamates. Biopesticides are plant-incorporated, biochemical, or microbial pesticides. All of these are highly used in agriculture, households, and even on ourselves with bug spray. The health effects of pesticides are still being researched, but their use has been in correlation with cancer, diabetes, and neurological effects.

Some benefits of pesticides are that they help control disease organisms. Pesticides can protect our homes and health by controlling insects like termites and in extreme cases of rodent populations. Also, they protect our drinking water and medical instruments. Additionally, we as consumers gain from pesticide usage by lower costs and a wider selection of food and clothing. This is especially helpful for the various parts of the world that fight for hunger, but it should be noted that food production is also negatively affected by pesticide use. Food is often lacking in nutrients, flavor, and other qualities after prolonged pesticide use.

Chemical pesticides are the pesticides that are most harmful to our health. A short amount of time with a large amount of these chemicals can result in poisoning. This increases the risk for farmers who frequently touch and breathe these pesticides in. This is where the research is unclear, but some studies link them to cancer, diabetes, and neurological defects. Chronic and low-dose exposure to pesticides increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, exposure to pesticides has been correlated with increased infertility in women and developmental issues in children.

When possible, it is best to reduce exposure to pesticides, especially in groups that are more susceptible, such as pregnant women and children. At local farmers’ markets and farm stands, one-on-one conversation between the consumer and farmer is the best way to learn about how food was produced. The farmer is available to answer any questions on how the food was produced, and if pesticides were used. Purchasing organic foods is another way to make sure there are no unnecessary pesticides if the farmer is not around to answer questions.

Furthermore, pesticide use is being analyzed and regulated by organizations like the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization. Before the EPA allows pesticides to be used on crops, it sets a maximum tolerance for each treated food and if more than that limit is being used, then the government will take action. Make sure when you buy food you are aware of how that food was produced. Purchasing food that is free of harmful pesticides is the safest for you, your family, and your farmer!

Taking the Farmers’ Market Experience to Schools

Guest post by Maggie Morrison, Oyster River School District Sustainability Coordinator

There is an adage that you learn the many ways to navigate being an adult in kindergarten.  With a precious dollar gripped in their fists, 5 and 6 year-olds had a chance to visit a mini indoor farmers market at Mast Way Elementary School, in Lee.   Each of the four kindergarten classes got an introduction of the ways to visit a farmer’s market and purchase vegetables, fruit and flowers grown on local farms.   Four Durham and Lee farmers gave the children an opportunity to visit tables displayed with orange pumpkins, multicolored carrots, red crisp apples, shiny green and red peppers. Farmers from Teece, Do-Be-Doo, Pinewood Yankee and Tuckaway welcomed students as each classroom took turns visiting the market.  Now in its third year, this farmers market experience marks the end of a unit of study on farming and where your food comes from. New this year was a tasting table sponsored by Seacoast Eat Local. Unusual vegetables to a 5 year-old palate were offered by Shelly Smith, SEL program coordinator as an opportunity to be brave and try something new.  Students received a coveted sticker if they tried a bite of a watermelon radish, a slice of a crunchy kohlrabi, or a pea shoot.

Weeks earlier, children experienced the first field trip of their academic years by visiting Tuckaway Farm in Lee, NH.  Students walked up the road lined with farm equipment and the last vestiges of the farms’ crops. Students eagerly helped to shuck corn and beans while learning all about the importance of these “three sisters” crops used in indigenous farming.   A horse drawn wagon ride took them to a potato field where they got a chance to dig in the dirt to discover the round yellow orb of a German Butterball potato.

Back in school, Oyster River’s Sustainability Coordinator, Maggie Morrison ask if the students were farmers, only a few hands flew up.  “You’re all farmers!” Morrison enthusiastically explained. “On your visit to Tuckaway, you did the harvest work of the farmer.” Although simple in explanation, these experiences are what kindergarten teacher, Mary Ellen Webb hopes will take root as these students grow up.   “This experience will help a young generation of students become comfortable with visiting local farmers markets. We’re hoping that students will encourage their parents to visit local markets and support local agriculture.” As the days get shorter into the winter months, if one child’s visit to a local farm and farmers’ market has a lasting memory and transforms later to an interest in farming or a lifelong habit of supporting local agriculture, it will be a visit well spent.

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The Energy Crisis and its Role in Agriculture

By Seacoast Eat Local Intern, Samantha

Agriculture is the method of farming which includes growing crops and reproducing animals for food, materials and other products. Unfortunately, global agricultural systems are collapsing because of the increase in the human population and the degrading of land and water which is affecting the energy demand and supply. Many scientists believe the high human population outruns the carrying capacity for the planet. Additionally, there’s a limited amount of space for agricultural land and water. The global agriculture is also being affected by an energy crisis.

windmill

The energy crisis consists of increased demand for energy, but a decrease in supply. Coal, oil, and gas are needed in considerably high amounts for the conventional household and most industries. All of these sources produce high amounts of greenhouse gases which increases the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a natural process where the sun heats up the planet’s surface. Some of the sun’s energy reflects back to space and is absorbed. The rest of the heat is trapped by greenhouse gases like water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane in Earth’s atmosphere causing the extra heat to raise the planet’s average temperature. Human activities related to unsustainable massive scale agriculture, clearing land, and burning fossil fuels are all contributing to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Conventional agriculture needs diesel for tractors and transportation of produce. Also, coal is needed to produce many fertilizers. Currently, coal is declining which means the amount of fertilizer produced is too. Without coal, there is a decline in crop yields from traditional agriculture. Additionally, electricity is needed for irrigation which is the process of giving water to land typically through a channel. Without the proper drainage and flooding of crops, many can get destroyed. Overall, if there isn’t enough energy for agriculture, then more intense labor is necessary.

All of this doesn’t mean agriculture is going to suffer and significantly decline. As the agriculture industry evolves, a focus on renewable energy sources and more efficient systems will be needed to produce enough food to support the population. Sustainable agriculture that feeds local regions will yield a more sustainable food supply than the global agricultural and distribution systems discussed above. Everyone needs to do their part and support different solutions to the energy crisis. Unlike fossil fuels, there are sources out there that are fully renewable. This includes solar energy, wind energy, and geothermal energy. Also, people need to be more efficient and conserve energy within households by switching light bulbs to LED bulbs for example. Additionally, reducing dependence on gasoline whenever possible and shopping locally will all ensure our planet can support our needs for generations to come.

How Does Climate Change Relate to Retail?

Blog post by Seacoast Eat Local Intern, Samantha

There is no doubt that cities around the world produce a high volume of global CO2 emissions. This is why many cities around the world are adapting to new ways of living that help out the world’s environment. Many of the nation’s states are aiming for renewable energy sources by 2040. The cities on the west coast are aiming for zero-emission transportation. Some cities are planting millions of trees while others are retrofitting skyscrapers. However, they need to go deeper than what is directly happening in the city. Tackling emissions from products made around the world, from food to clothes and mobile phones, that end up in our homes and communities is a significant issue. This is how climate change can associate with shopping habits.

Bananas are grown, harvested, and dispatched in Guatemala. Then, they are packaged and transported to the loading port where they cross the ocean with a ship that runs on unclean fuel to an unloading port. Next, the bananas are transported to a ripening facility and placed in environmental conditions that get them ripe within five days, which drastically alters their nutritional makeup. After they achieve the ideal ripeness, they get in an 18-wheeler truck that runs on diesel across the nation. The individual who buys a bunch of bananas from a nearby grocery store in New Hampshire is partially responsible for that very long carbon footprint, simply by making the choice to purchase bananas.

This is why local is best. It reduces one’s carbon footprint outside of the city in which they live. Local farmers’ markets, farm stands, and CSAs are a great way to support the food that is grown by farmers just miles away from your house. Also, thrift shops are a good way to reduce your dependence on newly manufactured products from around the world by reusing items people don’t want anymore. As a kid, many people hated getting their siblings’ hand-me-downs, but this is actually a great way to reduce a family’s carbon footprint and support locally owned “second-hand shops.” Where can you and your family cut down on your carbon footprint associated with shopping and spending?

Climate Change and Its Effect on Agriculture

Post by Seacoast Eat Local Intern: Samantha

Climate change has been a hot topic in recent years, and for good reason. Climate carries massive importance to agriculture by managing and enhancing crop production. Something people often overlook is how minor changes in the climate can introduce problems for farmers. Some of these problems include the introduction of new pests to a farm. The nation already relies too much on fertilizers and pesticides because of the increase in pest and insect population. Therefore, farms that do not use pesticides and focus on providing quality organic products can be impacted in major ways due to new pests finding a home in their farms. Not only are the insects and pests an issue but they can introduce disease to various crops. If the temperatures remain warmer the disease can spread more rapidly and easily. Temperature and rainfall changes will damage the way the crops grow and how well the crops sustain fruit, vegetation, and nutrition. Future rainfalls are going to be more intense with heavier downpours or even long droughts. Timing of rainfalls and snow are going to lead to uneven water availability and needs across the region. Additionally, changes in temperatures and rainfall increases the chance of wildfires and ozone pollution. Climate change’s effect on farms can even impact the nutritional quality of food. If the plant is not receiving the proper carbon dioxide levels, rain, or is exposed to dangerous pests and disease it can have lower nutritional values.

In conclusion, the number of crops from the country are expected to decline because of increased temperatures, changes in water availability, disease and pests. Climate change is expected to make agricultural goods change in availability and increase in price. Everyone needs to make a change to help reduce climate change and continue to support local farmers’ markets and farms. Understanding how climate change can impact local farms can help raise an awareness of the issue.

Read more about climate change and its impact on agriculture here: https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2019/august/climate-change-likely-to-have-uneven-impacts-on-agricultural-productivity/