"Reformed" vegetarian Lierre Keith always said that vegetarianism and veganism is not always the "kind to the earth, don't kill animals" philosophy it's cracked up to be. Last week The Guardian exposed one of the dirty secrets of Europe's insatiable demand for fresh salads - lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers - fifty-two weeks of the year. In the south of Spain, thousands of hectares of arable land are covered with greenhouses, and inside those greenhouses, the under-employed of Africa and Eastern Europe labor at low wages to help deliver those hothouse veggies to the colder cities of the North. It's an industry worth €2 billion annually to Spain, making it unlikely that it will go away any time soon.But is it any different here in the U.S.? In any supermarket, even the beautiful, packed-with-organic markets such as New Seasons and Whole Foods, the acres of sparkling produce include lots of fruits and vegetables imported from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Generally, that produce is harvested by farm workers making a lot less than minimum wage in any of the countries the veggies and fruits are destined to end up in.
Luckily, there is one thing all veggie eaters, whether vegetarian, meatless Monday-ites, or unrepentant omnivores can do. Beyond buying locally, that is. Start planning a nutritious greens garden now. Oh yeah, and as food prices are predicted to go up drastically this year as a result of freaky weather in North America and Chinese grain shortages, don't forget the potatoes, potatoes, potatoes.