Exploring Controversal Opinions on Food
During the Food Intensive last week, our class explored farms and food-focused organizations throughout the Central Valley, Bay Area and central coast of California. We went from feed lots and seeds genetics labs to intentional living centers, organic farms and candy factories. It was interesting to be exposed to such a diversity of places and to hear what each tour guide and representative had to say about the way they viewed food. They all had an opinion about the “right” way to grow, distribute and eat food. I was somewhat surprised by how emotionally and personally charged these views and this topic can be.
At the feed lot we spoke with an individual who had gotten involved with beef as a youth on his family farm. Though only on a small scale, the feed lot could fit a thousand head of steer and heifer (I can’t imagine just how big the large scale systems must be!). Meat, on the scale we saw, had been a part of his life from an early age; it provided him with a living and was one of his foods of choice. He also spoke about a few of the issues people who work in meat must deal with: a single, finished steer brings a profit of only 25 dollars on average. Despite this, our tour guide seemed fairly satisfied with the food system in place—people need meat, he provides it in this way to meet the demand.
Further along in the trip we spoke to an individual at an intentional, permaculture-focused farm on the California coast. Their home, garden and classroom were nestled in a valley from which there was a lovely view of the nearby ocean. He spoke about how the current food system feeds the mind but not the body—how could this GMO-ed, trans fatty, processed food provide good nourishment? A wholesome future meant reconnecting with life and humanity and changing our relationship with food—a possible reality he was creating at his farm. He was not satisfied with the current system but empowered by the potential of a new world food order.
These two men, with their radically different approaches to how to grow and provide food, both felt that they had the right system. From their backgrounds in farm work and learning from the land they developed solutions that fit their morals and present needs. I found it interesting to see the connection between food and the rest of life and the human experience. Talking about food can be so emotionally and personally charged because food is tied so closely to where we come from, where we are and where we hope to go. I hope to further explore these connections and opinions related to food in the near future.