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Honor the Harvest: From Farm to Table and Back Again

June 09, 2016

With the start of the growing season my thoughts turn to the vegetables and fruits I will be enjoying from the summer harvest. I also think about all of the resources that go into growing and getting fresh fruits and vegetable to us and the importance of honoring the harvest. Maybe it seems too early in the season to talk about the harvest; however, I have a new outlook that I hope you will adopt, too, we should honor the harvest all year.

Honoring the harvest is about respect and good stewardship. Respecting the land, water, air and the tremendous amount of work it takes for farmers to grow our food – then using ingenuity, common sense and good judgement to move nutrients through the food system – from people, to animals and back to the land to grow more food – instead of going to waste in a landfill. As more people want to know where food comes from and how it gets to the table — let’s learn together and share our knowledge with others.

If you are a health and wellness professional, here are some thoughts and resources to consider as you think about how you, your clients, friends and family can most effectively honor the harvest: 

Feeding People

While approximately 30 percent of the food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten, one in seven Americans struggles to get enough to eat and may turn to Feeding America’s network of food banks. Food banks across the country are rescuing tons of food from retailers, farmers and the community. Discover how you can become leaders in your community by helping collect nutritious, uneaten food and redirect it to neighbors in need. Another way to help those in need is to take steps to reduce the amount of food your household wastes and consider donating some of the money you save to the Great American Milk Drive. Your local food bank will distribute milk in the form of coupons to those who need it. Nutritious milk is an affordable way to get nutrients to people, including high quality protein, calcium and vitamin D.

Feeding Animals

Did you know that dairy cows help put resources to good use? Around 2 percent of a cow’s diet is made up of what a human would eat. Dairy cows thrive on parts of plants that we can’t eat, like grass, almond hulls, canola meal (the remaining content from producing canola oil) and citrus pulp (the leftovers from making orange juice and other beverages) and more. A cow’s unique four-chambered stomach helps transform those plant parts into delicious and nutritious milk that helps nourish people. Read here to find out how some otherwise wasted human food is being redirected to nourish animals.  

Feeding the Land and Recapturing Energy

Farmers understand that healthy soil creates plentiful, nutritious food. Through innovative technology like the anaerobic digester, valuable nutrients from food waste and cow manure can be captured and redirected back to the land to fertilize future crops or generate sustainable renewable energy that can power the farm and often homes in the community. Read more stories from the dairy sustainability award winners, including some farms with digesters. Individuals can use composting at home to transform food scraps and yard waste into rich organic matter to enrich the soil, landscape plantings or potted plants.

Dairy farmers and the dairy community have a long-standing commitment to health and wellness and contributing to sustainable food systems. They are dedicated to continually improving dairy’s environmental footprint to honor the harvest from the farm to the table and back again. 

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