I got to spend a couple days in Austin, Texas (more on that trip will be forthcoming!) the end of August for the AgChat 2014 Cultivate and Connect Conference. It was a fantastic time, and I’m so glad they invited me to be a presenter. I had the honor of presenting photography techniques with a farmer from Nebraska in our very own breakout session.
For those who don’t know what/who AgChat is, they’re a non-profit foundation, set up to help empower farmers/ranchers to share their story through Social Media.
Did you know that most farms are family owned? Ninety-Eight percent of them actually.
There were a couple panels set up to form a Q&A Session between participants (most involved in the Ag industry in some way, shape, form or fashion), and panelists. The panelsists were chefs, or people concerned with where their food comes from, the use of GMOs, etc.
I missed both panels – one due to the fact that I was prepping for my class (and I only got in on the tail end of it), and the other because it was held during my class!
I did, however have a chance to read the blog post, written by the Austin Foodie that was on the first panel, and I visited some with the other panelist via our Facebook Group.
While I find it empowering that we are free to have discussions about where our food comes from in this country, I also find it disheartening, that such a small percentage of the population find themselves in a place where they feel the need to dictate to the rest of us, how we should be eating; even what farmers should be growing and how they should be growing it. That speaks volumes for the amount of discretionary income Americans have, as well as to how plentiful food is in our country. Did you know that as of 2008, Americans only spend 7% of their income in food and that we also have one of the lowest malnutrition rates in the world?
I was fortunate to grow up with a mom who educated herself on nutrition, and made choices she thought were healthy for us. There weren’t soft drinks or candy in our house as a rule, and I have zero sweet-tooth to show for that. Not everyone in this country is as fortunate as me. And not everyone in this country has the time, or money, or means, to be worried about where their food comes from either. There are also people who simply don’t care, who’re just glad to have a grocery store nearby, and for us, nearby is relative.
In this country, on this Reservation, are kids who are often only fed during school. They can count on those meals. Those same kids, many of them, have never seen ice or water come out of a refrigerator door! Do you think those kids, or their parents, really have time to worry about where their food comes from? Or are they simply glad they have access to affordable food?
If foodies don’t want people eating processed foods then they should get what is and isn’t allowed on SNAP /WIC programs changed. Not punish or berate the people who’re utilizing these programs. I’d also argue that many of the locavores in this country have never lived in the Midwest/West/Northern states. And, if we’re really being honest, when you are in a bad spot in your life, do you want to eat a fresh tomato, or a Twinkie?
There’s a reason that only a small percentage of the population are concerned with where their food comes from, and I’d argue it’s because many of them have never been hungry. While I’m all for people eating healthy, I’m also for people making their own choices. If eating organic is the only way you want to eat your produce or chicken or beef, rock on! I’m for allowing the food producer the leeway to grow/raise food in a way that makes sense to them. I’m for not judging those who choose to make a living with their farm or ranch. I’m for not beating down already beat down individuals for the choices they make when it comes to food – especially when they didn’t create the policy.
Often, food grown for boutique/niche markets make it impossible for the average person to consume, due to price. Organic doesn’t always equal healthy. Just because something is grown/raised conventionally doesn’t mean it is poor quality. I’m glad that there are people in this world of ours who have the time and money to worry about such things, because that means we are free to form our own opinions and thoughts. So, let’s not make war about where our food comes from, because by 2050 there will NINE billion people to feed on this planet, and there’s a place for all forms of food production.
Happy Trails, and Happy Eating!