OUR current food system is broken. It has grown to allow a large diversity of choices, and those myriad choices now have expanded to the point that most Americans can make the wrong choice when it comes to their health, the environment and sustainability.
One of the biggest issues with the food system is its carbon footprint.
The fastest and easiest way to fix this is to stop worrying about how different crops can grow more efficiently in different soils and climates and instead eat only foods that are grown near you.
That means anyone living in a more northern climate would need to eat more meat and dairy products, fewer vegetables and absolutely no chocolate or coffee.
Of course, no matter how far your food has traveled, if it's pre-prepared, processed or preserved in any way, each bite will take hours off your lifespan. Therefore, it is necessary to purchase only fresh, unprepared food.
It is okay if you find yourself throwing out more food and making daily trips to the supermarket, as long as you are decreasing your carbon footprint.
Soil is as limited of a resource as water. In order to be sure that your eating habits are helping to protect the soil, it is important to find and make purchases only from farmers who properly manage their soils.
If a farmer's yields are above average, this means he is removing more nutrients from the soil than other farmers in the area, so it's best to buy from farmers who have not improved their yields over the past several years.
Somewhere along the line, our food has become inorganic. I am not sure how scientists have managed to do it, but they have found ways to make food out of rocks and metals. These foods make up the majority of today's diets and are the leading cause of obesity, autism and type 2 diabetes.
Since it's not a requirement for food processors to list rocks and metals on food labels, it's virtually impossible to know if you are eating these deadly ingredients. To reduce your risk of exposure to inorganic foods, be sure to buy only foods that have been certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In an effort to keep food cheap, farmers are expected to sell their crops at next to nothing. They have managed to do this by reproducing like rabbits. The average farmer has 16 children who are expected to know how to hoe, pitch and shuck by the time they are three. Oftentimes, these children are forced to work endless hours in inhumane conditions that result in premature death, leading to the absence of future generations to keep the farm going.
This issue is almost systemic across all family farms and can be avoided only by ensuring that your food has been purchased from the 2% of corporate farms that exist in America.
If this isn't enough for you, think of how stress has become a dirty word to farm animals. Livestock are no longer allowed to search for their own food. They will never know what it is like to defend their young from a pack of coyotes.
Young piglets no longer have to fear for their lives that they may be their mother's next meal. Instead, they are placed in barns where their every need is catered to by one of the farmer's many kids.
This phenomenon was borne out of America's demand for a healthy, safe and consistent supply of protein, so to avoid it, start demanding less-than-ideal grades of meat from your local butcher.
If you happen to purchase a half-eaten steak, you can be assured that a coyote did not starve from the making of your meal.
Yes, indeed, our food system is broken. Unless all of us step up to the plate, we will continue to deplete our natural resources at the expense of our health, livestock and future farmers.
*Mike Haley farms alongside his father Steve and wife Pam in Ohio, where they raise corn, soybeans, wheat and registered Simmental cattle. He is passionate about sharing information about agriculture with others. He is active in online conversations and can be found at http://haley-farms.com, http://justfarmers.biz and on Twitter @farmerhaley.