Sunday, September 21, 2008

More on Food

Building on the previous posts about Michael Pollan's books, I seem to have come across a lot of food related things lately. I suppose when something is at the top of your mind, and you casually bring it up in conversation with anyone who cares to listen and look for information on the topic, this tends to happen.

A contributor to the Stanford Social Innovation Review wrote a piece entitled, Fast Food and the Family Farm. The writer talks about the small farm his family has in the northwestern portion of Illinois. The article is a little romantic in its recounting of the farm as a refuge from the hustle and bustle of Chicago for him and his siblings. Underneath this romanticism as the realization that these small farms are extremely important to our country and local communities. In fact, considering the problems we've experienced in our food infrastructure over the past few years, the movement back toward locally produced food is gaining more steam.

At a recent family gathering, I was happy to hear my cousins talk about the pressure they have been feeling from one of their daughters about recycling and using local resources. They mentioned the FoodRoutes website and the fact that they have planted their own garden and enjoyed the juicy and fresh tomatoes all summer.

from the good ol' NYTimes A Locally Grown Diet with Fuss no Muss informs us about a local farmer in San Francisco, Trevor Paque, serving the lazy locavores in the city. It's the classic case of business serving a need and providing value. The folks would like to eat locally, but they do not know how and are not inclined to pop into the garden center and learn how. Simply pick up the phone and dial-a-gardener and in a few weeks you're harvesting veggies out the back porch.

Again, with the Times, Russia's Collective Farms: Hot Capitalist Property. The power of societies lie in their ability to feed the masses, and gain from exporting to feed others. The development of agriculture underpinned the development of the first civilizations some 8000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. It is the bedrock of our current state of the world. There is a land rush happening to increase the efficiency and profitability of Russia's farmlands. I wonder where that will go?

It just so happens that one of my classmates recently posted this article about the challenges created by government regulations to increasing the sustainability of meat production. Slaughter, the part of the process no one wants to think about is the thing that requires the most attention. If you're familiar with Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, you may understand where the need for strict slaughter regulations arose from. Now, those regulations create barriers to the localization of meat production; something more sustainable environmentally, economically, and nutritionally.

I noticed the difficulty changing one's perception of food as well as the influence of environmental factors on one's actions. I stopped at Harrow's here in Massachusetts north of Boston. The place has been around for years and is famous in the region for chicken pies. I decided to get one and innocently asked the person behind the counter, "where does the chicken come from?" I was optimistic that a local company would have a local (or at least regional) source for poultry. The folks at the counter did not know...though they postulated that it was not local; note their assumption that it was NOT local. I wonder if I can find out where it does come from.

As for influences...I stopped at the farm stand next door. I was surrounded by fruits and veggies, plenty of healthy real food choices for a snack. Instead, I walked out of the store with a bag of "All Natural" Pita Chips and a bottle of Monadnock water. What?! After all I have read and know about food, I walked out with that! I thought about it as I walked back to the car and realized that part of the decision resided in the fact that the bag 'o chips would be much easier to eat as I drove. After all, fruits and vegetables can be so messy.

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