This Mother Jones article by Micheal Pollan ranges a bit too far for my taste, at times, into anti-capitalist/anti-globalist rhetoric, but there are some good points, too.
The article profiles Joel Salatin, a self-described â€œChristian-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic farmerâ€ who sees himself as the Martin Luther nailing a challenge on the door of 21st Century agriculture. His vision is to persuade people to opt out of our over-industrialized food production and distribution infrastructure and instead start buying locally — eating food for which we know the provenance.
Joel believes that the only meaningful guarantee of integrity is when buyers and sellers can look one another in the eye, something few of us ever take the trouble to do. â€œDonâ€™t you find it odd that people will put more work into choosing their mechanic or house contractor than they will into choosing the person who grows their food?â€
There are a couple of interesting objective facts in the piece about the economics of farming. One is that selling directly to consumers allow famers to pocket “the 92 cents of a consumerâ€™s food dollar that now typically winds up in the pockets of processors, middlemen, and retailers.”
It’s amazing to me that farmers typically only receive 8 cents for every dollar we spend on food.
I also think this is an important insight:
When you think about it, it is odd that something as important to our health and general well-being as food is so often sold strictly on the basis of price. Look at any supermarket ad in the newspaper and all you will find in it are quantitiesâ€”pounds and dollars; qualities of any kind are nowhere to be found.
There was a time not too long ago when the cost of feeding ourselves exceeded the cost of almost everything else. Hunter-gatherers, for instance, devote considerable resources to ensuring they’ll have enough to eat.
So modern humans are an anomaly in this regard. One could even argue that the resources we now expend on luxuries and tchotchkes, on leisure activities and modern healthcare, represent resources we once would have devoted to feeding ourselves.
Perhaps, as this article suggests, the pendulum is now swinging the other way. Perhaps people are starting to look for other qualities in their foodstuffs than just low prices, and as part of that are beginning to allocate a greater portion of their resources on procuring food.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I don’t think it’s a change everyone will want to make (dare I predict that one day people will be demanding tax breaks for buying organic? lol)
But as the article suggests, people are drawn to the idea, and not just upper middle class people.
[tags] sustainable agriculture, organic food [/tags]