I hear a lot of people these days talking about our “food system.” Like where our food comes from, how it’s produced. It seems as though a lot of people think we need to change our food system: Bill Gates, Michelle Obama, Severine von Tscharner Fleming, Michael Pollan.
Yet it seems that the conversation has yet to acknowledge that the vast majority of what Americans eat isn’t produced by a food system. In other words, we don’t need to change our food system; we need to create a food system from scratch.
I’m sure you’ve heard the story many times before: the first green revolution wasn’t about food production, it was about finding uses for industrial byproducts following World War II. You’ve also probably heard about how many of our most profitable corporations produce products that people ingest. And yet these companies are not food companies. They’re chemical companies, or logistics companies. They’re out, not to produce food, but to make a profit. And rest assured: you can’t do both.
So we need to do a little backtracking here. Working with our current infrastructure of production and distribution isn’t going to cut it. Because that infrastructure isn’t compatible to food.
There are people out there working on producing food. Actually, I’m a patron of some of them. The small-scale sustainable agriculture movement, along with Slow Food, and the local movement, are starting to scratch the surface.
I realized this when I was having a conversation with someone about what kinds of foods our food system produces. For example, if we make a shift to no-till perennial agriculture, people will no longer be able to eat their current varieties of tomatoes, broccolis, or carrots. Instead they might start eating seakale, chestnuts, and hardy kiwi. For foodies, this would be a change. And it would be a change for normal Americans anyways, but the change in inevitable. And currently they’re eating processed “foods,” so it doesn’t really matter what they’re transitioning to as long as the practices are more ecological and the food is more nutritious.