By now, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I love talking about food on this platform. While I enjoy the
flavors of my favorite dishes and the vital nutrients they may provide, what I appreciate the most is how
they got to my plate. A lot of the food we eat is made possible by tweaking ancient agricultural practices
with modern technology in order to produce bigger yields for growing populations. What has stayed
constant over thousands of years is the fact that agriculture has significant effects on the environment,
economy and society.
If you’ve ever grown anything in your back yard, home or at the UB Campus Garden, you know that
plants require nutrients which they get from the soil. When you grow the same kinds of plants on a large
scale over and over again in one area, such as in a monoculture farm, you are depleting the soil of those
nutrients. The soil and I are very similar: we need lots of rest, nutrients and are susceptible to plagues
and diseases. So how can farmers combat these needs? The answer lies in fertilizers and agrochemicals.
While introducing these substances into the soil protects crops from pests and supplies the essential
nutrients the worn out soil lacks, they pose another set of problems. The use of chemicals can harm the
farmers who handle them and important microorganisms that live in the soil, as well as contaminate
surrounding soil and water. Fertilizers can also be washed away into nearby water bodies, feeding algae
and aquatic plants, disrupting ecosystems and suffocating co-habiting animals.
Another issue that comes with some agricultural practices is the employment of heavy tilling which
makes the soil more susceptible to erosion. Erosion and tilling contributes to greenhouse gas emissions
and affects the climates these farms operate in. What’s the most astounding part of this problem is the
rate at which it is happening. In Dr. Atkinson’s class, “Sustainability in Latin America, A Case Study in
Costa Rica”, we witnessed a farm that had been worn down 9 feet below the land in only 15 years. To
put it in perspective, it takes at least 500 years for just an inch of top soil to develop. Without the
implementation of conservative tillage practices and with an increasing reliance on agrochemicals and
fertilizers, we will continue to destroy our already limited farmable lands and will face an even graver
food insecurity issue.
I never said learning where your food comes from was going to be uncomplicated, but it should help you
understand how important your next meal is. We often forget that we can be more sustainable
consumers by supporting businesses that use better farming techniques and fair business practices for
their employees. The power of your wallet really comes into play when buying organic, fair trade or local
products and has a greater impact than you would think. We can also be more sustainable consumers by
avoiding overconsumption and wasteful habits.
On Friday, February 9 th , UB Campus Dining and Shops will be hosting a Waste Less dinner at C3. Special
menu items will be made from perfectly good produce that would’ve otherwise been thrown away due
to their imperfect appearance. Together, we will show our appreciation for where our food comes from
and that ugly vegetables are beautiful on the inside! We will also rewarding students who take what
they can eat and return to the canal with a clean plate.
Student Sustainability Coordinator, CDS