Nicholas Kristof‘s recent New York Times article, entitled “Obama’s ‘Secretary of Food’?,” affirmed much of my own thinking about the future of our food source. As part of my responsibility as chairwoman of my local municipality’s Open Space-Farmland Preservation Committee, I am to ensure we enable sustainable agriculture and help improve the economy of farming in town. We have experienced first hand how challenging this can be. Some neighbors don’t like the smell or noise farms make. Others think a farm stand at the side of the road is tacky and want it moved “elsewhere.” Many are supportive, but simply do not understand “keeping NJ green” means they actually need to buy at the local farm stands before going to the big box stores. Regardless, changing behaviors will always be difficult and we soldier on in the hopes that a new, more reform-minded Secretary of Food is appointed to straigten this mess out.
What really showed me just how important fixing our food system is, was an inteview of Michael Pollan by John Battelle at the November Web 2.0 Summit. The interview centers on Pollan‘s recent New York Times article, entitled “Farmer in Chief,” where he lays out how dealing with our food problem will also be the way for President-elect Obama to address climate change, oil independence and healthcare costs as promised.
Think about it…we currently drive production for the cheapest but worst kind of food–high fructose corn syrup (think sugar) and hydrogenated soy oils (think fast food and trans-fats). By doing so, poor farming habits occur like mass feed lots, high pesticide (petroleum) and fertilizer (natural gas) use and increases in processing and transportation. Keeping this kind of system prevents making any dent in oil independence or significant climate change and significantly reduces the quality of the end product in terms of its nutrition. Those end products have proven to be the leading causes of cancers, diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Other than being cheap in the short term, there is little good or inexpensive about our current food system.
In town, we are striving to create a series of community gardens for those without large backyards, farm stands for local farmers to sell and outreach programs to show residents how to create a backyard garden which will feed them well, compost their green wastes and even keep farm animals, like chickens, on a small scale. I personally believe, as Pollan suggests, we need to look to the old-world farmer to help us adjust to more appropriate farming practices. Few family farmers wanted the Monsanto’s and agriculture lobbyists of the world and they were right! Pollan is far more eloquent in his interview than I am here. Eat sunshine!