Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Great (Food) Reformation

As my friend Martha and I wandered about the World Food Festival and nibbled on cuisine from Ethiopia to Ecuador (not at all local but certainly delicious) yesterday, we invariably began to talk about food policy. I mean, we're both in Des Moines to attend the Community Food Security Conference, so even more than usual we both had food politics on the brain. Something that Martha mentioned that really resonated with me pertained to the idea that we are in the midst of what many -- including me, just ask my parents -- have been calling a Food Revolution. (Yes, with a capital R.) Change is coming, to be sure, but really what *needs* to happen, she suggested, and what is beginning to happen will more closely resemble a Reformation. "Like the Church?" I asked. "And Martin Luther?" Well...yes. (I get Church metaphors. I was raised Catholic, after all, though I don't go to church much these days. Sorry, dad.)

The metaphor is not mine, or Martha's, or even Michael Pollan's (though he is something of a godfather of the increasingly vocal local food movement), but one coined by Joel Salatin, and via Michael and then Martha has trickled down to me. It's a brilliant metaphor, though. The statements nailed to the door of the Church of Conventional Agriculture -- which brandishes most of the money and power and control over the food system -- are documents like Pollan's "Open Letter to the Farmer in Chief" and Dave Murphy's petition for President Obama to appoint a more sustainability-minded Secretary of Agriculture. The Church's splinter groups are programs like Growing Power, farmers' markets, organic farms and CSAs, even home gardens and food co-ops, that offer alternatives.

Joel didn't articulate the hyperbole so specifically, but I think there's something to these parallels. Like it or not, large-scale farming is not going to disappear any time soon. It's too ingrained in our culture, in our economy. I suspect that the face of industrial agriculture will continue to change, perhaps it will evolve into a more resource-conscious and humane system. But even now, instead of one Church of Food, if you seek it out you can choose the version you want to support with your food dollars. Amen to that... now let's eat!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  1. If Michael Pollan is the new Martin Luther, organic farming gives a whole new meaning to the "Diet of Worms"


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