By Robert Turner
Food isn’t really made “magically delicious” by elves. A food scientist did that with some sugar. A great disconnect has occurred in our food system, and that has happened by corporate design. Food corporations have covered the tracks that lead out into the field and pasture. And when we lost track of where our food came from, we forgot about the farmer. But at its very root, eating remains the final act in a long, slow process called agriculture.
All food, no matter how it’s processed or packaged, combined or supersized, came from a farm and the earth, and someone—some person— took the time to plant, grow and harvest it. We should try to remember the farmer, who for her hard work and labor, makes about eight cents on the dollar you spend for food. The rest goes to food corporations, processors and distributors and the advertising man, who have cleverly closed the curtain to the factory and the confined animal feed operation.
The daily drama of the farmer and the weather, heavy rains, drought and pests, all goes sight unseen. Little does the average consumer realize or acknowledge that he or she is a consumer of products that originate in the soil, that even Cheetos and Cheerios come from black dirt. We’ve lost this connection to the land as we fell into the trap of industrialized food production.
We buy what we want at the grocery store or the restaurant, with little questioning or real understanding as to the relative price charged, the nutritional quality of the product, how far it traveled to get there and how much that transportation added to the cost (in dollars and CO2 in the atmosphere.) We don’t ask about additives or chemical residue, how much advertising or packaging may have added to the cost or its real nutritional value after excessive processing. Raw ingredients are ground up, broken down and refined, then, with chemical additives, recomposed into something else quite unrecognizable from its original form. It is difficult for our minds to associate a Twinkie with a farmer in a field, and so we don’t. Food today is more of an abstract idea than a real thing that sprang from the ground.
We have become dependent on industrialized food from faraway places and the ten multi-national food corporations who control most of it, and so have given up some freedom, because to be dependent is not to be free. And we must understand that the concerns of the industrial food complex are volume and price, and not necessarily our health and longevity.
The life and health of our society is our own responsibility and so we must try to eat and act responsibly. The Center for Disease Control released a report recently that suggests an alarming statistic: one out of three children born in the US since 2010 will face Type 2 Diabetes in his lifetime. For children of color, it’s one out of two, or half the population. We’re facing a health crisis of epic proportions, and the first step in averting a crisis is acknowledging it. Highly processed, high-calorie, high-sugar foods are killing us.
But there is an escape from this industrial food trap, and local organizations like Organic Growers School (OGS) are leading the way. OGS is a nonprofit that teaches people how to grow healthy, whole foods in a sustainable manner through several educational programs. They bring power and freedom back into the hands of our community. Many of the growers that you see at the farmers market are students or teachers from Organic Growers School. OGS is all about food security, food sovereignty and regional resilience, and they could use your support in building a healthier community.
To volunteer or donate to Organic Growers School, visit OrganicGrowersSchool.org. Robert Turner is the director of the Creekside Farm Education Center and the author of Carrots Don’t Grow on Trees: Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities. To learn more, visit EatYourView.com.