Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Steve Bonney: Doing It Local For Nearly Two Decades

Steve Bonney of SustainableEarth.net talks about going local and avoiding misinformation about the cost of food in America.

steve bonney and daniel orr

Photo: Alycin Bektesh/WFIU

Steve Bonney and Chef Daniel Orr talk about local food and sustainability.

Steve Bonney talks with Chef Daniel Orr

Photo: Alycin Bektesh/WFIU

Chef Daniel Orr and I went to the farmer’s market recently and met up with Steve Bonney. He’s the owner of Field and Forest Eco-Farm, and a huge proponent of all things local-food. He’s a writer, he has a chemistry background, graduated from Purdue University, and at one point in his life, he was a college junkie I guess you could say: 11 years in college pursuing various degrees.

But, he felt as though he was being fed lies about the food system in the US. So, to counter this misinformation and to support local family farms, he started Sustainable Earth in 1991. That’s some 18 years ago, LONG before it was hip to be local.

Check out the sustainable earth website for more information and details about their annual conference.

The Path To Natural Eating

Chef Daniel Orr: How can the everyday Joe start on the path of natural eating?

Steve Bonney: I don’t have a straight answer on that, because I would say that our society is good at creating filters from the real truth about what we eat and how we live. … I like the food idea, because we eat two or three times a day. I think people get started by taking one item of food they eat – it could be milk or beef – and study that. Where does it come from? How is it raised? How is it transported? What’s in it? And I think most people would be appalled.

DO: There’s an unnatural cost of food in America, and when you do go to these more sustainable/local ingredients, they are sometimes more expensive. But they are priced at a real price. How do you encourage people on a lower socio-economic level to eat real food?

Avoiding Misinformation

SB: We’ve been fed a lot of misinformation… on the fact that we have the cheapest, safest food in the world. And it’s more of a Cold War strategy… that has just filtered into our society… It’s very difficult to convert people unless they’re willing. One of the sayings that has really helped me is ‘When the student is ready, the teach will appear.’ It’s hard to know how to get the student is ready, but when you factor in heal costs, wellness, the things that we don’t emphasize very much in this country, to me it’s a small price to pay, whatever it costs for food.

DO: What do you do around your house to feed yourself and your family?

SB: I raise as much food as I can, and that’s something everyone can do. No matter what your circumstances are, no matter where you live, you can have some kind of a garden… I have converted most of my front lawn into a garden. Some of my friends call it a ‘yarden.’ … Then, I took an inventory of what’s in my kitchen. We probably have 300 different foods if you count spices, and you start wondering where do those come from and how can I replace them. I’m still looking for some replacements… organic pickled jalapeno pepper slices. They’re hard to find!

The Best Natural Anti-Depressant

DO: I always think that gardening is one of the best natural anti-depressant around. You can go out and water it in the morning, it gives you something to take care of and you see it grow. It’s one of those things that can pull you our of a slump.

SB: Absolutely, and you get your exercise! I have always been bored trying to go to gyms. I would rather go out and do hard physical work by producing something… And to raise that food – that’s a bonus!

DO: How can we get the next generation to get involved in this?

SB: I tell people that all schools should have a garden. You also can get kids in your neighborhood to be involved. I had a project in the late ‘90s in a really depressed neighborhood of Indianapolis. We hired children to come over and work. They found joy working in our gardens and they felt self-worth in that. I think that’s what we have to do.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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