Since the last column containing my opinions about eating meat, I've been debating whether or not to answer a letter to the editor calling me to task for misinformation. (Journal Editor Chris Steinbach says I'm officially a columnist now.) So here's my answer: I base my opinions on what I've read and heard from many sources; unfortunately, my memory is awful, so I might get some facts wrong unless I'm looking at the source and quoting it directly. In the last column, I did not have it right in front of me, and apparently wrote several things that were incorrect. (The letter writer quoted only one, but said there were others.)

For that I apologize, and will try not to let it happen again, but I stand by my assertion that meat production in this country has come to be more about profits for just a few companies without sufficient regard for whether or not it's healthy for human consumption, and I believe that animals that are raised for meat production should not live a miserable existence before they are slaughtered. (No, I'm not a member of PETA, nor do I believe that everyone should be a vegetarian. I make that choice for myself only, and continue to prepare meat for my husband ... although probably not as much or as often as he'd like!)

OK, on to a happier subject: gardening! For anyone who wants to eat healthier foods, there are a variety of ways to eat fresh produce. You can buy it from any of our local grocery stores (make your own choice about organic), or from the Farmers' Market on Tuesday afternoons at Wilson's True Value or Saturday mornings behind Ruhl & Ruhl (formerly Downtown Drug). There is another way in our area, called "community-supported agriculture" offered by Oak Hill Acres in Atalissa, where you purchase "shares" in their farm, and they bring you a cooler once a week (delivered to one central location) filled with whatever is in season that week. (They also provide recipes, in case it's something with which you're unfamiliar.) We just signed up for that after recommendations from several friends, and I'm very excited to start getting our boxes at the end of this month.

Or ... the freshest alternative: plant your own! When hubby and I were first married, I had never done any gardening, so he delighted in teaching me how to plant, care for, and harvest a variety of vegetables. (Some more successfully than others.) We had a smallish back yard, so we did "square-foot gardening," where you plant a lot, close together. How I loved those early morning trips to the gardens to fill my basket with fresh green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, and broccoli! Unfortunately, after living there for 24 years, the trees choked out more and more of the sunshine, and last summer's harvest was pretty small. Now we're in a different house, and it looks like we'll have plenty of sunshine for the new gardens. I can't wait to get my hands in the dirt as soon as my schedule lightens up!

But here's something I really want to promote: community gardens. I've been doing some research and hope to put together plans for gardens at our schools and in our parks, in conjunction with other like-minded folks, including a woman named Karin Dohrn, who not only has a plan, but also previous experience with projects like this in the Quad-Cities. I also hope to be working with the Health and Community Beauty facets of Diamond Towns of America - Mobilizing Muscatine Excellence. (More about this in the next column.)

So ... what's stopping you from eating healthier foods?

Lori Carroll has been a music teacher for 30-plus years, and teaches at Louisa-Muscatine Schools. She may be contacted at lorising2me@yahoo.com.

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