Regardless of our politics, I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel completely disconnected, misrepresented and dismayed by government. It can make us feel powerless: After all, what individual can affect changes in the policies and systems that work against us? Big Money and Big Industry and Big Pharma and Big Ag shout louder and wield more influence and therefore shape the country and society and economy we all live in.
Over the weekend, though, I glanced a bit of hope, and it’s this: We CAN make a difference by the small choices we make, especially when it comes to food.
I attended the annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association and, while I’m not a farmer or grower or producer, it was amazing to be in the company of those folks. I attended sessions about season extension, cover crops, companion planting, seasonal eating (other sessions dealt with topics like business planning and marketing for small farms, large-scale composting, raising livestock, fracking and Monsanto and GMOs). Over and over, I heard the mantra that the food community is at the heart of a movement (or revolution or whatever you want to call it) that can reshape our economy, our health, our industry, our environment, our communities and our relationships.
Now, before you think I’ve gone and drunk the Kool-aid, I’ll admit that I am already part of the choir to which the event was preaching. I’m not a farmer, but I know that my health and wellbeing depends on farmers doing their work with integrity and care. I love good, healthy, local food, and so I benefit from their labor.
The most important takeaway I gleaned (pun intended) from the conference was this from Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety: We are not consumers. That which consumes, destroys. We are creators. And with every choice we make about our food, we can create one of two futures: 1) an industrialized, modified, commoditized, adulterated food system, or 2) a localized, holistic, humane, just, biodiverse food system. WE get to decide.
A few other nuggets I jotted in my notebook:
- Because of poor soil stewardship, in 2008 alone, 2 million acres of Iowa farmland lost 20 or more tons (each!) of topsoil … it all washed down the Mississippi River, carrying with it chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. There’s a huge biological ‘dead zone’ at the Mississippi Delta. Think about this for a sec.
- Collectively, we’ve invested more than $600 trillion (that’s a ‘T’) in the global derivatives market. The world’s GDP is $65 trillion. Do the math: There’s not enough money to cover those investments—and this complex financial system is incredibly opaque and off-the-radar. We’re making incredibly risky global investments … and yet, the farmer up the road can’t get a loan to buy fencing to house his livestock? WTF?
- We need to break the physical and psychological disconnect between the industrial food system and our plates. Andrew Kimbrell noted that we’d make very different choices if we could see what goes into making this stuff.
- Food is the most intimate relationship we have with our environment.
Wow. Heavy stuff, maybe too heavy for a Monday. [Sorry ’bout that.]
But here’s the thing: We have the power to improve our communities, our economy, our bodies, our planet. We do. We can shape our future simply through the foods we choose to eat ourselves and share with our families and neighbors.
Before you hit ‘unubscribe’ and never visit writes4food.com again because it’s justtoodamndepressing, take heart. My next post will be about cookies. Promise.