Panel discusses organic, health and fresh food

Panel members (from left) Kathleen Goetz, Maurine Sharpe, Orlando Thorpe, and Richard Andres discuss topics touched on in The American Way of Eating.

The health concerns of processed foods and the importance of going organic have been growing topic of discussion.

This is a discussion that complements the topic of the One Book, One Community selection this year.

The Agora sponsored a panel discussion entitled “Think Globally Eat Locally” that allowed experts and community members to weigh in on the topic and its importance.

Experts from areas of farming, agriculture, healthcare, and greenhouses discussed issues addressed in the One Book, One Community Selection The American Way of Eating.

Panel members included Maurine Sharpe a registered nurse and owner of Health Matter Herbs and More, a health food store in downtown Monroe. She is also an active member with the Monroe Farmer’s Market. Karlene Goetz, co-operator of Goetz Greenhouse, a family farm on the western edge of Monroe County.  

“Eating local is a good thing, and it’s all a matter of changing our habits,” said Goetz when asked about her general thoughts on the topic.

Also present on the panel were Orlando Thorpe and Richard Andres. Thorpe is CEO of Building Urban Gardens in Detroit. Andres is owner of Tantre Farms, a certified organic farm in Washtenaw County. He is also active in developing the Washtenaw Food Hub, and effort to create a sustainable regional food system.

The discussion centered around topics such as how to eat organic, how to overcome challenges of healthy eating, the global impact of the food movement, and how to get younger generations more involved in regulation policies and farming.

The biggest excuse and issue about eating locally grown and or organic food comes from the price. Typically this type of food is far more expensive than imported produce found in chain grocery stores.

“Hunger is not a rich or poor thing, or a black or white thing. It’s a human thing,” said Thorpe.

“We are faced with the issue and decision on whether we buy the processed cheap produce that is imported from other countries, or to buy the more expensive local food from our farmer’s markets,” said Sharpe.

Panel members, however, discussed easy solutions to the intimidating prices.

The simplest solution to the growing price? Home gardening.

Panel members Goetz and Sharpe talked about help made available by the MSU Extension office.

“The key to starting your own garden is to start small. Don’t make it too big, just make it doable,” said Andres.

Another issue that comes with healthy food, is not knowing what to do with it.

“A lot of people look at kale and wonder what the heck they’re supposed to do with it,” said Sharpe. “We need to find ways to introduce simple preparation for healthier foods.”

The issue of gaining access to cheaper healthy, fresh, and organic food is an issue that all panel members agreed is something that young people need to get involved with.

“Young people can profoundly change lives. They have the chance to discover a new model for farming and to break new ground,” said Andres.

Thorpe said the key to making a change in the system is to get people talking.

“We have to start a conversation. It has to start with the youth, and reach the elderly, the people in charge, the policy makers. Conversation is key in this movement.”