Recently my husband and I sat down to a delicious meal of chicken, heirloom eggplant, and potatoes. To say the meal was deeply satisfying would be an understatement. The satisfaction didn’t come from the fact that it filled the belly (which it did) or delighted the taste buds (which it overwhelmingly did). The true satisfaction that I derived from that meal was knowing that outside of a sprinkling of salt purchased at the grocery store, the entire meal right down to the herbs we seasoned it with was cultivated and produced entirely on our little farm. The fulfillment came from knowing exactly how much work, effort, and sacrifice went into providing that simple, delightful, nutritious meal to our plates. The joy came from knowing exactly how it was produced, how it was harvested, and knowing exactly what we were eating. I didn’t have to wonder if my vegetables had been sprayed with pesticides or what kind of life that chicken led before we ate it. I knew because I was part of the entire process. I call that food sovereignty.
There are others out there like me trying to reach this goal on a daily basis, and a select few who have been continuing the tradition all along, but we are a limited bunch. While more and more people like me are desperately trying to reconnect with the food we eat and the true costs associated with that food, we are but a drop in the bucket within the food to mouth disconnect that has invaded our culture. And there is a clear war being waged on both our desire and our ability to reconnect.
Not having this connection to the food we eat has allowed us to turn a blind eye over the last century to the loss of 90% of our food diversity. It has allowed and encouraged us to ignore the mass environmental pollution and destruction created by the way the majority of Americans eat; to ignore incredibly inhumane suffrage of animals; to ignore soil depletion and subsequently a weakening of the mineral content of our food (while the vitamin shelves grow larger to replace that loss); to ignore mass spraying of food crops which practices are linked to a wide array of health ailments; to ignore water quality; to ignore slave labor wages for both immigrants and farmers (because people have become accustomed to cheap, governmentally subsidized food); to ignore mono-cultures and the problems they create; to ignore an indisputable reliance on the grocery store shelves being full; and perhaps worst of all, to buy into the hype that only gmos can feed the world while we here in this country discard nearly half of ours in the trash. Honestly with what the massively scaled, pesticide and herbicide laden, and governmentally subsidized practices dominating this country are producing, that’s exactly where most of that food belongs. We’ve been sold on the fallacy and convenient idea that it is the only way to provide food for ourselves and the only way to eat, and as a result, eating for most in this country has become a mindless, ungrateful practice.
What my partner and I do on an acre of land can easily be produced on your typical urban lot, but the powerful interests that be have decided that lawn and palm trees are the better investment and damn the urban or gated community dweller who believes or attempts to invest otherwise. Their efforts are most likely to be quickly thwarted and in many cases penalized by the guy who took down every potential nesting site in their gated community before branding it with the misnomer “Eagle’s Preserve.”
The cost is the loss of community that comes from having a locally produced food supply. Food literally brings us to the table. And what I would call ‘real’ food, brings us into a genuine dialogue with the people we share it with.
How have we fallen away from each other socially, politically, economically, and so on? We have metaphorically left the table that sustains, enlivens, and connects us all. We now eat at the table of mass media, social media, and cheap, nutrient and spiritually deficient food. How many people do you know who make it through a meal without feeling the need to look at their phones?
(This was written at the request of The Florida Weekly. You can read the article in context here.)