Nutrition and Health
Orange County Produce is focused on the many sustainable dimensions of agriculture that are to be found in a suburban/urban environment such as Southern California. In the area of nutrition and health we believe that agriculture is a part of the solution to dealing with the challenges that come from food insecurity, obesity and other manifestations of malnutrition. Historically, OCP has worked closely with food banks, schools and community development organizations to bring a “rural experience” to urban residents. Our many projects such as the Incredible Edible Park, Centennial Farm and Orange County Harvest gleaning task force bring us together with amazing community members who make a difference in the lives of many. Our basic philosophy on the role agriculture plays with nutrition and health is best described by the way a farmer sees his own responsibility to his crops…
As fruit and vegetable farmers we have always noticed that there are certain truths that occur in our fields that can be offered as analogies to life in general. These ‘truths’ exist in every garden as well. It is clear that if a farmer plants celery or green beans in a field on a given date he or she can expect to harvest each after a predictable period of growth and maturity. The seeds or transplants are all bred for uniformity and vigor. The farmer’s responsibility is to provide these young plants with the best environment, fertilizer/nutrition and cultural care possible in order to see them thrive and yield their greatest potential at harvest time. It is the task of the farmer and the gardener to do this...crop after crop, year after year.
A field is not like a greenhouse, not like a factory. Invariably there are plants on the edge of a field or garden that despite our best efforts seem to miss out on the inputs, care and attention that we invest into our crop. Not surprisingly, these plants never seem to thrive and reach their full potential when it is time to harvest. They grow abnormally and become stunted. Their lack of vigor and weakened immune systems make them more vulnerable to all kinds of pests and diseases. They are always less productive than the other plants that receive full benefit of the care given.
We offer this simple analogy. How can children be any different than the plants and animals that a farmer or a gardener raises? A child that eats a donut and soft drink every morning, a fruitless fruit punch and cookie for lunch and some poor excuse for a dinner, day after day has a bad fertilizer program. Interestingly, some of the poorest kids have the best diets and some of the richest kids have the worst. If we raise a generation of children that miss out on so many of the critical components to a productive, thriving life, then what excuse can we give? As farmers we know our limitations and we know the consequences of failing to properly care for our crops. Farmers might tolerate a 5-to10 percent failure rate in their fields…but in terms of human failures, what percent of a dysfunctional, malnourished population is acceptable? Aggressive behavior, attention deficit syndrome, immune system abnormalities, learning disabilities...what role does nutrition deficiency play? Our greatest fear should be that we are raising generation after generation of humans who will never reach their full potential because of our nutritional neglect and ignorance. As the crisis in obesity and other symptoms of malnutrition continues to grow regionally, nationally and globally, we are just now realizing the consequences of failing to care for our most valuable resource: Our children.
At Orange County Produce, we are encouraged to think that new partnerships and paradigms will help us to move in a positive, decisive direction. Agriculture, Nutrition and Education are not three mutually exclusive areas of activity. They can merge together into a logical, hand holding relationship that takes full advantage of each other’s resources and potentialities. OCP is building an agricultural model that can become an exciting cornerstone of a new awareness for our society of the importance of nutritional abundance, access and understanding. Come learn more about our partners, projects and plans!
For additional information visit California Strawberry Commission www.calstrawberry.com