The other night while watching television, we saw a commercial for a local produce store. After their whole pitch about how they are the best for fresh, local produce, and the tag line “If it’s in season in Virginia, we have it in stock”, they immediately announced a special on strawberries.
Edie actually beat me to the yelling at the television.
“It’s January. Where in Virginia are those strawberries from!?!?!”
And then yesterday, as we were heading out to meet the egg lady*, Edie told me how in school that day, her class watched a video that included footage of chicken houses. You know, the big ones, with no windows and the sign telling you that this family farm is a proud producer of chicken/eggs for (Insert name here of big food producer, like Tyson or Perdue). Apparently they are studying the southeast and that particular clip was part of showing how the chicken industry is important economically to the region. Every time we’ve ever driven by one of those factory farms, her father has been sure to point out, in great detail how gross they are. Because of his career in environmental non-profits, he is well versed in how factory farming is harmful to our environment, not to mention our health. So to be shown this as a ‘good thing’, well, my child was slightly horrified.
“Why would you show that to people and then want them to buy the chickens and the eggs they are trying to sell? It’s gross Mom.”
Yes, my dear, it is. But it’s good to show that, because maybe, just maybe, it will make people sit up and question where their food comes from.
I’m pretty sure my kid takes this for granted. She’s a not quite 10 year old foodie, and has been on a first name basis with more than a few pieces of meat that have come across her plate – heck, she’s even seen it being born. She has been raised with me questioning where all our food comes from as long as she can remember. I’ve been called obsessed about knowing where our food comes from. We are what we eat, after all. My husband says of all things to be obsessed about, this one has healthy implications for our family, and it’s a good thing. Living here in Charlottesville, it’s not hard to find like minded folks. Back in June, Forbes Magazine called us the locavore capital of the world. I know that the whole ‘eat local’ movement is often dismissed as a yuppie thing and I get why. It does take tend more, both time and money, to eat foods that aren’t factory farmed and processed. This is where I tend to go off on huge rants about how the system needs to change. And while there are a number of changes that can only happen at the top, we need a grassroots effort to make the top sit up and notice. This grassroots movement needs to encompass all of us, no matter our economic status, education level or the color of our skin. Everyone needs to sit up and realize that those chicken houses are beyond disgusting, that those strawberries on special in January are strawberries in name only, because they sure as hell don’t taste like the ones I pick out of my garden every spring and I shudder to think at the chemicals involved to make them look that big, firm and red this time of year, despite the number of miles they’ve traveled. That all this cheap, processed food is actually costing us more in the long run than it’s saving us in the here and now.
I had coffee yesterday with my friend Ivana. She was a big driving force in the new wellness policy adopted at Charlottesville City Schools recently, and is working on some other really great ideas, among them, a new roaming monthly potluck, to be held on the 3rd Wednesday of every month. Families are welcome and child care is provided for a nominal fee (a $3 donation). If you can’t make it this month, but are interested in being on the mailing list, there’s a spot on the website for that. I’m really looking forward to this gathering.
I try not to rant on here too much about the state of our food, although I do talk about how much local food we eat, my garden and canning. I’ve been told I should use this space to talk more about my passion for overhauling the food system in this country and perhaps I will. It’s really not hard to learn how to change the way you eat. I often hear from friends and family “You’d be proud of me” and they then proceed to tell me how they’ve made some small change in their diet as a result of listening to me babble about the state of our food. Yes, I am proud of them and yes, I’m proud of myself, for getting them to think about where their food comes from. This is how we are going to change the system – from the bottom, one small step at a time.
*The egg lady is a vendor from the Charlottesville City Market that I have been buying eggs from for some time. She asked if I would like to continue getting eggs from her farm all winter and so now I meet up with her in parking lots to get my goods. The first time I met up with her this fall, it was in an abandoned Martha Jefferson parking lot, cold, getting dark and really sort of sketchy. I kept waiting for some undercover agent to bust us. It had that sort of a feeling….