Sunday, March 22, 2009

Of food revolutions and politics

This article in today's New York Times poses the question of whether the time is right at last for a revolution in the way we grow, buy, distribute, and eat food. A perfect storm of factors, argues the writer, is brewing to make this happen: Economic hardship, political leaders who value sustainability and an older-school farming ethos, and an ever-more-complex web of relationships between those who grow food and those who eat it.

Is it, as Michael Pollan has suggested, time for a reform of our entire food system? Is this the moment to move toward the Alice Waters model of growing and eating local? I hope so.

The agribusiness lobby has had Washington's ear for the last eight years. I hope the new administration can hear something else now--the concerns of small family farmers, organic farmers, parents who want to feed their children (and eat themselves) high-quality food. One of the biggest obstacles to meaningful food reform in this country has been the fact that only the relatively wealthy have access to good food. So I'd like to see policies that broaden that access and make it possible for poor and inner-city consumers to buy local fruits and veggies, organic meats, and food that's grown to taste good rather than to last 4 weeks in a crate on the back of a truck.

Why am I writing about this here, you might ask? Because eating local food, organic food, food that bloody well tastes good, is a crucial part of learning once more to celebrate and enjoy food. It's a back door into my obsession with the joys of eating and of being comfortable with your body.


Gwen said...

I completely agree. The Omnivore's Dilemma changed the way I look at food. It's time we demanded more for ourselves and our children.

Eema-le said...

I wouldn't get too excited about this administration helping any local farmers. You might be interested in HR 875 and S 425. It's not good.

Kelly said...

Yay for you! Many folks are pushing for a modern Victory Garden mandate from the various recession-plagued govts. I think it'd be a rockin' idea. Hubby and I are planting the third season of our own garden, this week. We get positively giddy when eating something we grew, even when it was the only handful of greenbeans our vines produced, this very hot summer!

Incidentally, gardening also happens to be my preferred means to the overly-touted "active lifestyle". Weeding works up a major sweat!

Tonight, I think we'll dine on some tasty pasta primavera with some of what we grew.

Rachel said...

Ugh, don't get me started on agribusiness and the ways in which it has government tied around its little finger. One of the very reasons that only the "relatively wealthy" have access to healthier foods is because the Department of Agriculture subsidizes corn (used in processed foods and meat and dairy production) but not healthier fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts. This is why it's cheaper to buy a Hostess cupcake than it is a peach.

Last year when gas prices were at their highest, I wrote a story on the rising popularity of "Victory gardens" for the paper I write for. I interviewed a couple of local greenhouses and nurseries and they all said that more people than ever were buying vegetables and inquiring about organic home gardening. One nursery, in fact, sold out of its veggie seedlings in the first week they offered them. It usually took a month to sell the same number of products in previous years. I expect that as food prices continue to rise (or quantity declines with no change in price) and no end in sight to the recession, that more people will come to embrace home gardening. And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.

JeanC said...

I remember a few years ago when I first put in a garden. I didn't get much as I am still playing catchup after not listening to my grandmother and dad when they tried to teach me garden lore, but I did manage to grow a few sugar snap peas and I came running into the house to show my hubby, all the time yelling "I GREW FOOD!!!!!" LOL

I garden now in part because good fresh veg is expensive and I want to have produce to put up for the winter months and in part because I want my fresh veg to TASTE like something. Nothing better then picking cherry tomatoes straight off the plant and popping them in your mouth.

I have 3 varieties of heirloom tomato seeds started and I am looking forward to getting them in the ground and in pots and harvesting. I've a number of other seeds waiting to hit the ground as soon as it is time and I am looking forward to fresh greens I know won't be contaminated by whatever.