May 8, 2012

But Its Hard to Stop Eating Bananas

"You might consider how it can sometimes seem as if a great deal of what it means to be human has been stripped from our daily lives and how something as simple as the way we eat has the potential to restore so much of what we've lost." Ben Hewitt, The Town that Food Saved.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be human lately, and I can't stop thinking about this quote from the book I've just finished. Just before that one, I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Both teach a lot about farming, and this national food crisis that still too few people care about. What? We're in a national food crisis?

Consider how much irreplaceable fossil fuel is used to bring bananas to every town in America, even during seasons when there is plenty of fresh fruit in a given region, waiting to be picked.  Or how much it costs in today's gas prices, to bring all the produce from California to the Northeast. Consider why it costs so much less to buy that food from California than it does to buy food grown locally at a farmer's market. Who's growing that food in California, and how are they doing it so cheaply? We can thank the families of illegal immigrants who are willing to toil for slave wages, for growing most of the food that America eats. The real crisis, even worse than those things, is that a few giant companies have a monopoly on how crops are grown, and they are overproducing a few crops like corn and soy in a way that ravages the soil, yielding thousands of acres of current farmland to be wasteland in the near future. The solution seems to be for more average, every day people to start growing food.

Sounds good to me. Its interesting that the way we've grown accustomed to getting food now leads us away from the humanity of food. We like the package. We like the price. We like the taste. It seems like we've lost the appreciation that food keeps us alive. That we depend on food, and that food depends on the land, and people to grow it.  The people growing our corn and soy, and raising most of the meat, aren't putting any love in it.  There's a vulnerability there, that's hard to admit. Hunger feels vulnerable.  You and I did not create the giant corporations, or drive the Chiquita truck from El Salvador to Rode Island. But, now that these issues expose themselves to us, lets let them sink in for awhile, gently nudging ourselves back toward a more human existence.

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