When I started this journey I was mostly focussed on how to cut back on buying needless items so that our family could save money and achieve our goal of buying a small acreage. Reading about consumerism and how it affects our choices led me to Simple Living, which it turns out encompasses so many areas of my life I’d been working on, bringing them all together under one umbrella philosophy.
What I didn’t expect was the education I’m now receiving about Food. The seed was first planted (pardon the pun) by a friend who was so moved by what she read in Michael Pollen’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma that she generously passed it among her friends, myself included. I was shocked to learn about the world domination of corn, less so by the industrialization of organic foods, and moved to optimism when I learned about Joel Salatin and his amazing “beyond organic” farm.
When I decided to try my hand at growing our own veggies I was thinking only of the convenience and pleasure of having fresh food right in our own backyard. But as I’m going along I’m realizing that it’s not just about providing nutritious food for our family. There’s a bigger issue here and it affects all of us.
In short, modern food production methods are bad for the environment, bad for our health, unsustainable, overly energy-dependent, and take democracy off our dinner tables. The people who grow, nurture, and harvest our food are robbed of a decent living and often cannot even feed their own families. Our society has lost a huge volume of collective knowledge about growing and harvesting food, knowledge that has been around for thousands of years and upon which civilization is founded. We’ve lost our connection to what we eat – where it comes from, how it gets to us, and who is hurt along the way.
Today on the radio I caught the tail end of an interview with Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: the hidden battle for the world food system. It was the proverbial last straw for me. I’m sick of what’s happened to our food over the last 50 years. I’m sick about the fact that small farmers are being pushed out by Big Agribusiness, threatening not only local economies but our very health and well-being. I’m sick that 90% of the world’s food is distributed by a handful of very large, very powerful organizations whose voice is much louder than those of simple farmers speaking out for the health of our planet and its citizens. I’m disgusted by the way we treat the animals we eat, and the folly of mass-production methods that foul our waters and pollute our air.
I used to assume that, without modern industrial food production, we would not be able to feed our massive global population. What I’m realizing now is that industrial agribusiness has robbed whole societies of their ability to feed themselves. I’m beginning to believe that small scale farming, particularly when managed appropriately, can feed the world’s people and do so in a way that honours traditional dietary wisdom and fosters good health.
And so I’ve decided that I want my life choices to stand as a protest against the current state of affairs that is modern, industrial agriculture. It’s not going to happen all at once, but I am okay with that. I don’t live anywhere near local farmers. I’ve developed a dependency on shopping at the local big box supermarket because it’s convenient and inexpensive, even though I’m becoming increasingly annoyed by the fact that half of what I’m buying there is not labeled as to the country of origin (and the designation “Canada” is not too helpful given the size of our country). I’m challenged by the fact that one-half of our family eats an extremely limited variety of foods, few of which are whole and unprocessed. But…
I’m learning to grow my own food, hoping this will entice the younger set to try new things (or, at the very least, get an education in food production) allowing us to reduce our dependency on supermarket produce. And I know that when we move to a more rural environment our ability to truly know our food will greatly increase. The area is rich with a variety of locally produced foods of all kinds (wine, fruit, cheeses, etc) and farms will not be an hour’s drive away but instead will comprise our neighbourhood. Husband is keen on making cheeses and sausages. I’m keen to learn canning and preserving.
It’s a journey and I know I won’t arrive there quickly or in one big step. But darn it I’m going to take each baby step with fierce determination, strong in my belief that our one small voice will add to the growing chorus of others who are yearning to Know Their Food.