“Eat Food, not too much, mostly plants.” -Michel Pollen
Although Mr Pollen was not on the list of speakers, that pretty well summarizes the talks on Saturday January 21st. And of course they went into glorious, interesting, heartbreaking, and sometimes amusing detail on all aspects; starting with Birke Baehr and a shout-out to the Chattanooga area’s very own Sequatchie Cove Farm.
We began with the horrors of factory farming, from the mistreatment of animals, the obscene amounts of antibiotics being dumped into our food system and bodies, the poverty and debt of the indentured “farmers”, to the washout of the road between farms and the consumer (it’s easier to ship a product around the country and back than it is to direct-market).
Then we learned about labels and what they do/don’t mean- how “fresh” can be applied to anything, but “Genetically Engineered” is not even required.
Next was Soil, about how 25% of the earth’s soil is dead and gone and never coming back. It is a non-renewable resource, just like fossil fuels and once we put too many toxic chemicals in it, it’s all over. (very depressing, but there’s still hope we hear)
But do not despair! We only started with the bad stuff. There were also plenty of examples of wonderful small family-run organic farms feeding healthy families everywhere, plus organizations helping to get the most-needy the food they require to live happy and healthy lives. You just have to face the truth before you can make the change.
Then we learned about Taste, and how we’ve been trained to like the “easy” tastes- sweet and salty, along with a lot a bit of fat. It has been used as a marketing tool by processed food companies, but we can reclaim it and use it as our own tool. As Mitchell Davis from the James Beard Foundation explained “Taste can be used as a tool for societal change. Taste is all about a society’s values“.
Wayne Pacelle from the Humane Society of the US told us that although 95% of America’s meat eaters say they deeply care about the way meat animals are treated, factory farms still use practices that would put a dog owner in jail with a felony. But that 95% doesn’t really do much about it. He said “Animal Rights” isn’t about animal rights, it’s about our choices and responsibility. It’s about syncing our values with our actions.
Then there was the exilerating teacher from the Bronx with his movin’ and shakin’ kids growing green roofs and walls all over the city.
…. O and there was so much more, with the conclusion that WE are the people who are going to change everything. We cannot wait for it to become more “convenient” to buy and cook locally/sustainably grown food. We have to start reflecting our values with our actions today. There are many levels to work on, and the easiest and most “convenient” is to meet our local farmers and start voting with our forks. Of course laws need to be changed, and there are large groups of people who need lots of help. But our farmlands are disappearing, our non-renewable soils are becoming poisoned and washing away, and the easiest way to slow that all down is to devote most of your food budget to Local Farmers. Tell your friends. If you want your grandchildren to have clean air to breathe, and fruits and vegetables to eat, this is not an option, it is a requirement. But it is a very fulfilling, enjoyable, and o-so-fun one.
Plus, the potlucks are so worth it.
Here are a few links to fun, interesting and important things going on in the food world of our nation, all from different speakers at the conference:
- Meatless Mondays
- Healthy Food Action Network
- Food and Water Watch
- Fair Food Matters
- Farmers On the Move
- Jamie Oliver
- Green Bronx Machine
- Real Time Farms
- NYC Green Carts
- Ample Harvest
And there was so so much more. For even more info visit their site here.