It has taken me years to get to a completely happy place with food.

I was raised on garden fresh foods and pasture raised meats growing up on a Wisconsin farm. It was not completely organic, as my parents started buying into pesticide use, but I would say it was minimal use.

Over time they bought into what the chemical companies were selling. It was the end of our pristine well, as atrazine poisoned it. I’ve since learned to try avoid all chemicals in my life if possible, but most of all in foods.

The foods we eat also affect the farmers worldwide. Chemicals are making them and their families sick; farmers have some of the highest cancer rates because of this exposure.

This part of the equation matters to me. Every bite we take affects the planet. It is much more than just food choices.

I have been a foodie for as long as I can remember. It’s a lifelong journey, and it took me a long time to get where I am today.

I remember thinking I could not afford to go organic. I was on a very tight budget. What I didn’t know was that I was spending good money on a lot of processed foods that had little nutritional value and many additives.

I was in my late 40s when I finally started the process of getting off all processed foods. Change can be challenging and takes time.

First, I stopped eating white flour products. It took a long time to realize they turn to sugar very quickly.

I had already been off most sugar. Sugar is also mostly GMO unless it’s organic. I even limited fruits, as they are mostly sugar.

I then turned to animal products. I tried being vegan, but it was just too extreme for me. The way animals are raised and the hormones and antibiotics used was enough to convince me, however, that I needed a better choice.

Now the meat I buy seasonally is from 100% pasture-raised and organic-fed animals. Most animal feed is GMO unless it’s organic.

I know my farmers and ask about their practices are to be sure. Big organic finds ways to get around best practices, so beware. It’s even better to go to the farm and see for yourself.

Some farms are shipping their products, and has a nice annual shopping guide. They are also advocating other healthy practices. There are local chapters if you would like to meet like-minded people.

What I learned after moving from the standard American diet to a more organic one was that my budget stayed more or less the same.

Not only that, processed foods have zero life force. I was eating dead food! I didn’t realize that until I started learning about Asian medicine. Life force is at its peak when food is fresh and unprocessed.

Life force is energy and is very important for our health and well-being. Fresh means optimal nutritional value if the food has been grown in conditions that allow for nutrient density.

Some cultures still eat a majority of veggies. There are so many wonderful edible plants, and we have access to most of them.

Again, know your source. The big box stores are noticing the demand for organic, and they tend to cut corners. I don’t buy from them because I want to buy local for many reasons.

My recent discovery of regenerative agriculture has been eye-opening for me. I value a living soil as a way to value all life. Our life and health depend on a living healthy soil.

Big organic farms might still till the soil, which is very detrimental to healthy soil. They might also use more chemical inputs than small, easier-to-manage farms. There are many issues that need to be considered to get the maximum production and still maintain the health of the soil.

The local farm I volunteer for produced 22,000 pounds of veggies in the last season, on just 0.8 acres. It is not certified organic, as it is a very expensive and involved process. But you can ask about how Farmer Beth, of Winterfell Acres in Brooklyn, farms.

She wrote a wonderful report in her blog. Her farm uses community supported agriculture. It sold out last season, and shares are now available for the upcoming season. They deliver into Madison.

Small Family Farms delivers into Verona and is the only farm I know of that does. There is a weekly delivery, and they also team up for eggs and apples if you would like to get them.

I bought a share and found it just wonderful to eat with the seasons. If you are just one person you can split a share with someone.

Everything I do affects the entire planet, as all life is connected. Feeling good about my food choices means a happier, healthier me and a happier healthier planet. I can vote with my dollars every day.

There is no perfect system, but there are certainly better ones than our current way of producing foods. My food budget is a top priority for me now.

Jo Ann Lindberg is a City of Verona resident.

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