Saturday, January 30, 2010
KNOWING WHERE YOUR FOOD COMES FROM
This week we want to share with you all the biggest reason why we believe in local farms, which is also to explain why we do what we do. We believe in local farms because knowing where your food comes from genuinely empowers the consumer, enabling the consumer to make wise and responsible decisions about what to put on the table. Buzz words (like "free range" or "pesticide free" or "USDA organic") on labels of products from far away farms, on the other hand, more often mislead consumers and take advantage of the absence of any direct accountability to the consumer. This not only means inferior food on the table, but it means irresponsible and exploitive farming. We believe the only reliable source of good food is good farming, and we think good farming can only be sustained by wise and responsible consumption. You see, even more than the food itself, we believe in the kind of system that naturally produces good food and that produces it responsibly. Consider these questions: Does it matter at all how much fossil fuel is burned to substitute for natural fertility? Does it matter at all if farming depends on an immigrant underclass? Does it matter at all if insects pests are controlled by broad-spectrum insecticides (meaning they kill a huge range of insects instead of targeting the problem specifically)? Does it matter at all what impact the farm has on the human community that surrounds it? Do fields, pastures, gardens, and forests not have any more value to the local community than the dollars they generate? Does it matter at all if irrigation empties underground aquifers and causes rivers to run dry? The national organic standards, incidentally, say nothing about every one of these questions, but we believe these kinds of questions are ultimately inseparable from maintaining food quality. So the big question is: what kind of system allows a consumer to ask these kinds of questions? We think the answer is a system where the consumer knows the farmer, talks to the farmer, has a basis to trust the farmer, where the consumer knows the farm itself firsthand: sees the animals, sees the condition of the land, sees the farmer at work, etc. We think this kind of system: small-scale, diverse, local farming, naturally tends toward the production of good food. We all know where the industrial system of food production naturally tends. Do we want to naively try to tame the inherently irresponsible and exploitive system of industrial food production, or do we want to build and support the kind of food system that's consistent with good food, healthy ecosystems, and healthy communities?
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