Allegheny Group helps to promote the new farm economy

apple eater

Courtesy morguefile

By Don Gibbon

The shelves in the produce section of your local supermarket chain store are full of beautiful, blemish-free fresh fruits and vegetables. But look more closely: those pears and grapes come from Chile, the apples from Mexico, and of course, the lettuce from the Central Valley in California. Most came here by plane.

Since everything’s connected to everything else, there’s the obvious petroleum cost of industrial agriculture, plus the antibiotics in the meat and water supplies, the soil erosion, and then there’s the presence of high-fructose corn syrup in processed foods, giving rise to diabetes and obesity. But perhaps worst of all, is the dis-connection – the separation of people from the source of their food, the loss of intimacy with the earth itself. This is the real cause of pollution: if you don’t know that it’s your earth being damaged, you won’t work to stop the damage.

To reconnect people to the source of their food, the Allegheny Group hosts an annual Apple Festival in Pittsburgh, bringing the local apple growers and cider makers into town to meet the eaters and drinkers of their wares. Last year Devilish Merry, a fine Celtic band, and Johnny Appleseed himself entertained the crowd. To top it off, the Pittsburgh Regional Pro-Am Apple Pie Baking Competition considered pies from six pros and 26 amateurs and after the judging, a crowd of about 200 ate the pies. The festival was a veritable Lake Wobegone day and attracted more than 400 people.

But there was a serious point to it all—to support the local growers, and ultimately to replace out-of-region apples on the shelves of the supermarkets with apples we grow right here. This is one small step in growing the regional food economy, providing fresh nutritious food to our populace at large, remaking the connection between the growers and the eaters, replacing pesticide and herbicide-dependent farming with “farming as if the Earth matters.”

The Sierra Club’s national Sustainable Consumption committee is chairing an on-going campaign to investigate the “True Cost of Food,” and the industrial agriculture output you see in your supermarket. You can see some interim results of this campaign by ordering your own copy of the free “True Cost of Food” video from

Donald L. Gibbon serves as the program and environmental education chair of the Allegheny Group.

Published November 2008