Food with a Relationship

Food with a Relationship

By Sam Fisher, farmer

As we know, many social events include food to some degree, and society has come to subconsciously expect relationships with friends or family to include food. However, for all our food-centered societal relationships, we no longer expect a relationship while obtaining food. Generally speaking, Americans no longer know the person growing their food, and often have no close connection with anyone while acquiring it. Sure, we exchange the necessary niceties with the person behind the counter at the grocery store, but it is ultimately a bar-code reading monetary transaction, not really buying food from someone we know.

In the present on-the-go age, it’s possible to obtain a ready-to-eat meal with only minimal interaction with a real person. We simply drive up to the menu board, order a meal with an unseen person via intercom, and drive around to the drive-thru window to pick up and pay for it. A meal (if it can be called that), obtained by exchanging only a few words with someone inside a window – that most likely played no part in preparing your food other than taking your order and completing the exchange of food (or is it food?) and money. To me, that is one of the tragedies of modern American society.

It has been said that there are three things that define cultures. They are food, art, and architecture. We connect certain foods with certain cultures, just like different styles of architecture originate in certain cultures. American society has relegated food to the lowest level of recognition – a mere afterthought – and we pay even less attention to the quality and nutritional value of the foods we consume. But that’s the consequence of food without a producer relationship. Food coming from halfway across the country, manufactured by a nameless, faceless corporate giant, also comes with an insurmountable rift between producer and consumer. In other words, if it comes from a food factory, it must travel the orthodox paths of distribution in order to reach the end user, a path almost impossible to follow, much less develop a relationship with the producer. Plus, to allow our food to come from corporate channels is also to place ourselves at the mercy of whatever the manufacturer – and/or the regulators – decide is or isn’t safe for us to eat. That’s getting pretty close to having government and industry in my throat, banning things like unpasteurized dairy and allowing many concoctions of chemical flavor enhancers, genetically modified organisms, and other “natural” ingredients.

Having a convoluted path between production and consumption of our foods manipulates the consuming populace into a regulator sanctioned food paradigm, all in the name of food safety. We expect regulation to take care of us. They will make sure our food is safe – with they being the FDA and USDA. But as it turns out, they are also being lobbied by food manufacturers and distributors to allow certain substances, all in the name of ”natural.” In short, food safety is best determined by discerning citizens who take the time to develop a real life relationship with their food source.

The same could be said of authentic nutrition. The upside to relationship food is the ability to see it being produced. The chance to see your cows eating grass in the pasture, turning it into the highest quality milk or meat, or – if you’re so inclined – to see your chickens being processed, your lettuce growing in rows, your beans harvested. The list could go on and on, but you get the gist. With that ability comes the privilege to lay aside the paranoia and distrust of food that’s so prevalent today. You have the advantage to insure that your farmer is doing everything you want him to – the ability to dispel any corner-cutting or inappropriate practices with your presence, scrutiny, and relationship. What people need is good, clean food at an affordable price, from a source they can trust. That is a timeless need. And that’s the View from the Country.

Quotes Worth Re-Quoting –

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.”   ~ Benjamin Disraeli