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The Health of the Commonwealth

Mac Stone

GEORGETOWN The genesis of these writings was watching people we know and love make lousy food choices, which in turn has an impact on our Big Blue Nation. Consuming industrially produced foods harms the planet, which includes harm to you, your housemates, extended family, and neighbors. Eating foods raised regeneratively is beneficial to the planet, which means that it’s beneficial for you, your housemates, extended family, and neighbors. Just think, what if we all committed to doing our part? How might those choices impact our Commonwealth and the people we all know and love?

Each of us is a little organism running around among millions of other organisms, and we form the State of Kentucky. Each of us has slightly different characteristics, but we all impact the space we call home. Kentucky is reported to have a high incidence of diet-related health problems. Seems to me, proper diet is the antidote for diet-related disease. The data coming out of the Kentucky Farm Share Coalition validates this statement.

When Euro-Americans colonized our region with their wheels and steel—technologies never seen before in these parts—they also brought insidious diseases that decimated the population of native peoples. Today, Big Food is wielding all the power, feeding the world (except China) with never-before-seen technologies, and evolving at breakneck speeds with little mind paid to the disease they’re introducing. It is now considered normal to manipulate chromosomes and to tweak toxins to apply them to farms and food. These things are so “normal,” food produced by these means don’t even require labels saying so when they enter the food system. At Elmwood Stock Farm and other regenerative farms, we are considered the oddballs, babes in the woods, crying foul. What if we find out in 10 or 20 more years of this lunacy that there is some insidious disease that came via the cheap food brought in by today’s Big Food colonizers?

The consolidation of food suppliers, just as in other industries, comes at a cost. In my travels, I have seen supply chains at their finest. The efficiency at which cabbage can be turned into coleslaw and beef to burgers is remarkable; however, my takeaway is how tenuous it is. Get a snowstorm, and the shelves empty. Shut down the trucking industry, and the warehouses empty. Disallow trained workers to harvest the crops, and farms stop delivering. Whether it’s three to five days’ food supply or two weeks’ worth, there is no great game plan for food security on your behalf by Big Food. We and our CSA shareholders have several months’ supply of food growing in our fields at any given time. I’m hedging my bets and sourcing local.

The Achilles heel of Big Food’s cheap food is control of the genetics, both of livestock and of seeds. Vertically integrated pork and poultry industries have extremely shallow gene pools; beef is decentralized at the farm level, so it’s a bit more diverse. A fistful of international vegetable companies have a grip on produce genetics, hiding behind the veil of differing seed catalogs. Feed grains are controlled and manipulated by one or two or three, depending on how you count. Thankfully, on the local level, we still have access to diverse seed banks, thanks to the local food movement and the National Organic Standards Board.

Then, there’s the financial side of the equation. Let’s say 20,000 of the 325,000 people that call Lexington home spent $10 at the Lexington Farmers Market one Saturday. That would put $200,000 into the pockets of a handful of small farmers. Say that we use that purchasing power each week during the 10 weeks of local sweet corn season, and we’re at $2,000,000. That 2 million rolls over within the local economy 3 to 4 times, and now we’re pushing $6–8,000,000. We know what we would do with our part of that at Elmwood Stock Farm: Hire more help, invest in infrastructure, and grow more to meet the demand.

It matters whether your fingerprints are on a pesticide jug somewhere in rural Kentucky or, alternatively, whether your fingerprints are left behind at a farmers market. Critical thinkers have the opportunity to lead their loved ones to save the planet one bite at a time. Your personal health is directly correlated with what you eat. Committed consumers can invest in their local agrarian footprint because, as Wendell Berry said, “Eating is an agricultural act.” A decentralized food system builds strength through numbers. Just as in nature, the more diverse the ecosystem, the more stable it is. Then, and only then, do we have a healthy Commonwealth.

Mac Stone, his wife, Ann Bell Stone, and extended family operate Elmwood Stock Farm in Scott County, Kentucky. Mac was the executive director of marketing for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, administering the Kentucky Proud program among many others. He is former chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards Board. His focus is on farming and marketing organic foods for the family and working with nonprofit agriculture and food organizations. Mac can be reached at 859.621.0756.


Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a farm share that allows members to prepay and receive seasonal vegetables each week throughout the spring, summer and fall. Your CSA membership offers a selection of organic produce grown at Elmwood Stock Farm, just outside Georgetown, Kentucky. Foods are harvested at the peak of ripeness to ensure top flavor and nutrition. Your subscription ensures you and your family are eating top-quality vegetables all season long. Customize your farm share each week and choose your own vegetables, meats or eggs.

Summer CSA shares are distributed each week for 21 weeks, May through September. The variety and bounty available to you depend on the season. In the spring the harvest focuses on salad greens and spring veggies. In mid-season, shares can be bountiful with summer favorites like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and potatoes. By fall, varieties change again to sweet potatoes, carrots, greens, and fall squash. Fall and winter farm shares are also available from Elmwood Stock Farm to enjoy eating local and organic farm food year-round.

Sign up for your CSA farm share at

Call 859.621.0755 with questions.