The other night, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting in Sun Valley, Idaho. This meeting was an annual gathering of engaged individuals involved with the Rainforest Action Network. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that I like to stay involved in the fair food movement, no matter the place. Since I recently relocated to Sun Valley, ID, I’ve been finding ways to get involved in the local food movement. I’m happy to share my experiences, and thoughts, regarding the food revolution (because we’re now on that level, and I couldn’t be more overjoyed by this type of revolution).
I say that a food revolution is in works because of the demand of the consumer; for labeling, conscientious consumerism, and awareness on the national level. For the past few decades, the industrialized agricultural market has been in high demand. Consumers became less aware and more easily persuaded by advertising initiatives. From harvesting and cooking our own food, to buying boxed meals and fast food, we, as a market, have changed course, and we’re slowly, but surely, coming back around to the traditional way of feeding ourselves.
I’ve never truly understood the American disconnect between sustenance and reality. We act, and buy, as if our nourishment and our vitality are not the most important aspect of daily life. This belief, attitude, or value in our society is skewed by a few forces, including government regulations, corporate greed, and personal responsibility. We are told that we are free consumers, able to make our own “free” choices, and the markets will act in response to us. However, I argue that the market, somewhat subliminally rules the forces. Through federal subsidies, corporate irresponsibility, and persuasive communication theories, we’ve become a society that promotes cheap and easy food sources over traditional and sustainable food systems. Instead of promoting food created locally, we subsidies industrial food machines that produce mass produced calories that lack both nutrition and love.
Okay, back to my story…I went to this meeting, at a local resident’s home, consisting of over fifty community members. And we all had a conversation. In all honesty, this may have been one of the most educating “conversations” I’ve ever had. The executive director of the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Lindsey Allen and Anna Lappe, author of “Diet for a Hot Planet” educated the group on palm oil, global movements, and ecological changes that are contributing to climate change. This super informative conversation made me consider a few questions…the major question related to my hyper-aware consumerism in the food and sustenance market. If you aren’t a hyper-aware consumer in the food market, I suggest you become one. Read about the RAN and their movement against palm oil (a major contribution to carbon emissions, and main ingredient in many snack foods), educate yourself on the impact your diet has on the ecosystem, and decide to start shopping local to best sustain yourself and your world.
As an aware consumer, meaning that I follow and preach the ways of sustainable food systems with a comparable desire to support local food establishments. In American society today, one would be naive to overlook the important of dining out, a true global pastime. I believe in supporting locally owned restaurants, especially if they are supporting their local farmers, and many establishments in the Wood River Valley do. As I start to get settled in my new home, I am determined to test out all the establishments and decide on which ones I will chose to support, in the long term.
I’ve tried a lot, especially since starting contract work with Lava Lake Lamb. I want to try the lamb offered in any local establishment. However, as I venture out and try said restaurants, I can hardly limit myself to trying only the lamb. I live in a small town foodie heaven. There are at least 50 options for high-end casual fine dining, with a variety of ethnic inspiration. The evening after the RAN gathering, I headed to Globus, a purchaser of Lava Lake Lamb, and a staple foodie visit in Ketchum, ID. I sat down to treat myself to a meal out, and within 20 minutes of arriving, I had made a friend at the bar.
As conversation began regarding beer, and microbreweries, we ventured into the topic of food and farming. My new friend, Roger, from Filer, ID, was a farmer. Not only was he a family-farmer in southern Idaho, he happened to be a conventional farming, growing soy beans, sugar beets, and corn, and receiving a good sized paycheck from the US government. Now, I hadn’t kept my mouth shut on my views regarding industrialized agriculture. I don’t care who you are, I’m not muting my beliefs, as I’ve done lots of research on both ends of the spectrum and have come to an, in my opinion, educated position on this argument. Roger was a wonderful person, on a mission to heel himself after a difficult divorce to his long time, but unhealthy relationship with his wife. He was a father, a farmer, and a forward thinking individual.
Roger understood that he may not be doing the best thing for the environment, but he enjoyed his weekends. He asked me if I understood the work that it took to be a farmer who wasn’t taking advantage of the industrial agri-subsidies. I didn’t know. I wasn’t a farmer, wasn’t raise on a farm, and only had interactions with a handful of farmers, mostly organic, throughout my life. Although I was passionate about sustainable farming, I didn’t take a lot of time to think about the personal situations in most of the industrial farming operations. These are people, just like you and me, who were born into a changing industry – where once their families grew calories, not obesity – and only followed the market, unaware of the devastating impact that the Standard American Diet (SAD) would manifest.
Now, as I’ve kept you long enough, my main purpose for writing this, is to impart the understanding that a conventional farmer, a single person, is not bad. Just as the single Christian isn’t bad. Just as the single homosexual isn’t bad. Just as the single radical believer in witchcraft isn’t bad. As individuals, most of us aren’t bad. When we start to understand the overarching sum of “all who are like us” behaviors, in our worst possible behavior, we can start to understand how our singular choice does, in fact, impact the surrounding world, the ecosystem. We are the sum of the whole. We are more than just a snowflake. We create the world we live in. If we continue to disassociate with our surroundings, we will continue to diminish our returns. If we put forth an effort to survive, shouldn’t we put forth the effort to have our grandchildren’s grandchildren survive, as that is, in fact, the root of evolutionary theory, and we are evolving.