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Envision a Future Full of Healthy Food
As modern food processing has expanded its reach, a
shrinking portion of our diet is in its original form of fruits and vegetables.
Medical professionals moan about the fact that most of us to not get a
“balanced diet. For maximum health, the nutrition experts at the U.S.
Department of Agriculture urge all adults to eat at least two-to-four servings
of fruits a day and three-to-five servings of vegetables – but Center for
Disease Control surveys show that less than a third of all Americans do this.1
This helps explain some of the nation’s rising health-care
If you eat like most Americans, your grandmother would not
be happy with you. “You are supposed to be a role model,” she would say.
Part of this unhealthy consumption pattern is due to price
signals. We can buy more food volume for less money if we buy processed food
than if we buy fresh fruits or vegetables. This volume may not be a healthy,
but it often appears more filling for less money.
When we confront the significant present and future issues
around obesity and public health, we might see that the challenge facing our
country is to produce fresh wholesome foods at a cost and availability
competitive with processed foods.
One reason fruits and vegetables are so expensive at
different times of the year in many parts of the country is that seasons change
– and local farmers who plant outside can only grow leafy greens or tomatoes
for a few months a year. This means they pay for the land and taxes for 12
months but get income from it only during a portion of the year. Therefore,
they have to charge more.
We can import food grown elsewhere cheaply only if two
things hold true. First, it has to be inexpensive to move the produce form one
climate zone to the other. (Think about the cost of flying bibb lettuce from
California to North Carolina.) Second, the continual use of the land depletes
it, so increasing amounts of fertilizer and pesticides must be applied. To make
food affordable, these fuels and chemicals have to remain cheap. Unfortunately, for the past few years the
price of fuels and chemicals has been rising – and is expected to continue to
do so indefinitely. 2
You can see that we might want to have an alternative system
in place to provide us with food that is safe and reliably available close to
home, regardless of the time of year.
Wearing my futurist hat, I am pleased to say there is an
alternative system. It is called hydroponics, and it is coming along nicely. One
of the largest producers is Premier Organic Farms in Dallas, Texas. In 2009, they produced more than 9 million
heads of lettuce, along with many other crops.3
Imagine a piece of Styrofoam floating in a bathtub full of
water outdoors. The Styrofoam has holes in it about as big as a quarter, and in
those holes are bits of spongy stuff that seeds are placed in. The seeds
sprout, and the roots reach down to the water. You add fertilizer, which can be
organic, to the water, and the plant grows wonderfully. Move the bathtub
indoors in a greenhouse or garage with skylights or artificial light, and the
plants often grow better because of the lack of bugs. You don’t need to use
chemicals to spray. Costs go down, and health goes up.
Hydroponics facilities not only grow plants off-season, they
do so with [an estimated] one-fifth as
much water as traditional agriculture. And clever use of waste heat and natural
lighting can cut otherwise expensive energy use.
One such commercial scale pioneer is Dew Drop Farm in
Mocksville, North Carolina. They produce delicious tomatoes for market through
the fall, winter, and spring when traditional methods do not work.
Restoring a healthy diet should be a matter of national
urgency. With one-third of our population suffering the ill effects of obesity,
and another third significantly overweight, many people will end their days
with a sickly decade, dying too early at great private suffering and expense –
unless we change the way things are done.
One thing you can do is examine the quality of lettuce and
other products at the supermarket and compare the hydroponic version to the
regular product – and make your own decision. Another is to build a small
“do-it-yourself” hydroponic system. [Do an Internet search for] “DIY hydroponics”
[or search] You Tube: hydroponics.
About the author:
Fran Koster, Ed.D. is a Rotarian. He is the author of
several books, including Discovering the New America, from which this excerpt
Francis Koster received his
Doctorate from The Program
the Study of the Future
at the University of Massachusetts, where he studied the implications of
likely global future trends and their impact on the public
policy of the "life support systems" of Air,
Water, Food, and Energy,
the interplay between them, and their impact on public health of The United
He has been
an award winning innovator
in Education, Energy, and Healthcare, serving at various times as student and staff at an experiment college, administrator of the nation's
largest renewable energy
program, and Vice President for Innovation for the nation's largest pediatric sub-specialty health
Post "retirement," Dr. Koster maintains a consulting
practice. His clients
include the Duke University Graduate School of Nursing
where he helped
new curricula in the areas of
leadership and project
management, and the Catawba
College Center for the Environment, among other clients.
He is a frequent
speaker to groups of adult leaders on matters
policy, sustainability, and life support
Dr. Koster is married
to Dr. Carol Spalding, President of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in North
to his consulting practice and newspaper writing, Dr. Koster runs a website
which collects and displays
proven solutions to known problems facing America.
Dr. Koster has served in the United States Army National
Guard, and as a Peace
Corps Volunteer in Africa.
expressed by the authors of each
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