Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is it a crisis yet?

infographic from Oxfam

Some days it is hard not to wonder when someone is going to call it and finally say, "yes, our food system is in crisis." Why the doomsday feeling? It's hard to avoid after a headline line-up like this one:

Buzzkill: EPA rejects beekeepers' pesticide petition
GMO sugar beets get the green light
The lesser of two evils: Why food advocates are pushing a Farm Bill they don't love
A dry run from hell: Drought hits the small farms the hardest
For young farmers: No land, but plenty of climate change to go around

Now admittedly Grist is especially colorful with their headlines, but still... the underlying message is equally worrisome: the bees are dying and no one cares (don't forget that 70% of our food has to be pollinated by someone), another GMO crop enters the market (and more important, the environment) with the most paltry attempts at evaluation, having to settle on the Farm Bill because the House is full of bullies, our nation is stricken with drought and small farms are taking the biggest hit (but never mentioned in the media), and for the new folks trying to make a difference for our food system there's no land and a million climatic challenges standing in their way. Some days it is rough to read the news.

So why do we keep going? Why not give up, surrender to the (supposedly) inevitable, and crawl back into bed with a Hershey's bar and bag of Lay's?

Because it is our food system. Every single one of us eats, hopefully two or more times a day. That means this is our responsibility. No one else is going to stand up for our food if we do not. Business will always chase profit, and government will (probably) always stall and pander to the businesses with the money. But we are just people, trying to feed our families, live healthy lives, and enjoy food that we aren't scared of, that nourishes us, that doesn't destroy the planet, and that helps feed and employ our neighbors. It sounds like a lot to ask, doesn't it? And it is. 

This is why every single one of us needs to step up. Make the decision that health is something you value, a future for your children is something you value, your community is something you value. Put your dollars where your mouth is... and I mean a significant portion of your dollars. Just picking up a pint of strawberries from market and placing them in your reusable bag once a week isn't enough anymore. Better yet: move beyond dollars. Grow extra food and give it away to friends, family, or people in need of it. Trade a few hours weeding for a bushel of produce. Get together with friends and go in together to buy a local grassfed beef or heritage pig from someone you know, whose hand you can shake. Split the meat (and the cost), and learn to cook frugally and make the most of what you have. 

We need to get serious. We need to be thoughtful. We need to decide what really matters, and then work toward that with every ounce of our being. No more halfhearted attempts, no more political posturing, no more talkin' without the walkin'. (I know no one is super human, and there will be moments of weakness and exhaustion, but conviction and commitment are what we need now more than ever before.)

If you're reading this, you probably know where to start. And you probably have the resources to do so. So please, go out and do it. And then share what you are doing--offer to teach people skills that you know, offer to cook for them, plan a berry picking outing and freezing party with them, give them a ride to the farmers market. Read more of these difficult articles instead of glossing over them. Maybe you have land that isn't being used--offer it to someone who doesn't have a garden. Maybe you have a full canning set up--offer to rotate it between houses so everyone can preserve the season's bounty. Maybe you have capital--invest it in the local community. Maybe you have good ideas--share them!

What do you do to stand up for our food system? Leave your stories in the comments! Simple or complex, easy or hard, we want to hear about them all! Thank you for sharing your ideas with us and the world. Thank you for caring!

No comments: