I was walking through my local food co-op about two weeks ago in search of produce. Signs hanging above the apricots and strawberries read “From USA.” The same sign hung over the lettuce, the spinach, the squash, the chard, the cherries, the blueberries, and the figs. Stickers with the words clung to apples and oranges, pears and tomatoes. The words labeling American independence covered almost the entire produce section of the store.
The words for most of the produce were a lie, and what’s worse is there’s almost no way to tell which ones. Southern and middle California grows most of the produce Americans eat. Arizona’s contributes a fair share as does New Mexico and Colorado. Because they also happen to be desert states, most of the water needed to grow these water-loving plants comes from taking huge amounts of water from nearby (and not so nearby) rivers and bringing them to these otherwise parched locations.Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley especially rely on pulling water from everywhere it can to supplement the huge farming industry its created. Because these areas provide almost no water themselves and require so much, state and federal laws have been bent, “forgotten,” and in some cases blatantly ignored to get the water.
Stealing has been a longstanding history in the fight for water out west, and southern California’s existence owes itself to that history. L.A. effectively destroyed the Owens Valley economy through the Owens Valley Project in the turn of the century, and they have been pulling and demanding and stealing more water from farther away ever since. They’re just one example. Other cities and other states can share the blame.
As can I, and you. I looked at the figs with the Made-In-USA tag, and I knew that meant nothing for the environment and little for economics. Really it’s about politics. I decided I would contribute no more to that water oligopoly. I will buy local and eat local, and I will share here how to do it affordably. The more I learn about the issues, the more I will share in this blog.