Worlds Apart On Common Ground

Brittan and I are part of a grass roots movement that makes the Tea Party look like a week night crowd at a Florida Marlins game, virtually nonexistent.  I mean, this movement is huge.  And it’s growing at a pace that could soon make us an irresistible force.  If we don’t implode, that is.

We have many names and many flavors.  People are in for a variety of reasons.  Some are about local food.  Some are about whole foods.  Some are interested in food security or better nutrition.  Others are about sustainability and permaculture vs. Big Agra and monocultures.  Many participants are fighting ‘Climate Change’ while others have faith based motives to care for God’s creation.  The list of reasons goes on and on.

We are old and young, male and female, religious and secular, conservative and liberal.  We speak a hundred languages live in all corners of the globe.  We are strong.  And we are fragile.  Our uneasy alliance could crumble at any moment.

I see two large contingents in this ‘good food’ movement.  The first is liberal and secular.  I would even argue that they may be the dominant force.  They are certainly the most vocal in the social media environs of Facebook and Twitter.  They are all about ‘food justice’, anti- Big Agra and very active in urban areas.  They are well educated and articulate.  They are also passionate and dogmatic.  This group wants to see more Govt. involvement in all things food related.  This group is responsible for some outstanding films like, “Fresh” and “Food, Inc.”  I would consider Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and Will Allen, the heroic founder of “Growing Power” in Milwaukee as poster children for this branch of the movement.

The second large force is conservative and Christian.  Brittan and I are in this group.  This contingent has a large number of small farmers, bloggers and writers in its constituency, but appears to be less vocal.  On the whole, we want Govt. out of the food chain.  We consider Big Govt. as big a problem as Big Agra.  We promote personal responsibility over federal responsibility.  We would rather mobilize the Church, communities and individuals and keep Govt out of the way.  Lift the restrictions and let the people go free.  I’m guessing that Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia is the most recognizable name and face in this wing.

Conservative Secularists seem to make up smaller part of the movement.  Some of them, though, like the very awesome Nature’s Harmony Farm, in Elberton, GA are making a significant impact.

All the branches are about making healthy, tasty, whole, natural, safe foods available to the masses.  We all want it to be affordable as well as accessible.  We are all working day and night as producers, consumers and advocates to make it happen.  There are, however, fundamental differences in our core values and even some of our desired tactics.  It is here that we are most vulnerable.

For example, at the end of the film “Fresh”, which I own and which my wife and I opened our home for a public showing before its national release, the statement is made that access to good food is a fundamental human right.

The implication of that is then that all forces, private and Governmental, should be marshaled to achieve the noble goal of food security.

I whole heartedly agree with the goal.  I fundamentally disagree with the premise, and there’s the rub.

There is nothing in Scripture or nature that indicates food is a basic human right.  It is a basic human NEED, but need and right are not synonyms. 

In nature, animals starve to death all the time.  There is nothing in the physical world that suggests we have a right to food.  If I am competing with a gorilla for the same banana, unless I have a firearm, his strength and quickness will trump my ‘rights’ every time.

It the Bible, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul wrote, “If a man refuses to work, he shall not eat.”  The implication is that eating is conditional. Note: This refers to the ‘won’ts, not the ‘cant’s’.  I get it. 

For me, and for others like me, it is my love for God and my fellow human beings that drives me to CHOOSE to meet their need for good nutrition.  “Pure religion, and undefiled,” James wrote, “is to look after widows and orphans.” Note:  This one is about the ‘can’ts’.

It breaks my heart to see pictures of starving children.  I am angry that 35 million Americans are genuinely hungry, not to mention the hundreds of millions around the world.  I shake my head in frustration and rage when I read about a new salmonella outbreak.  I am outraged at the conditions of animals in Factory Farms and CAFOs.  It should not be this way.  It should not be easier to get a packet of ramen noodles than an apple.  Kids are starving to death on Happy Meals, even as those same dinners are making them obese. 

Unlike my liberal allies, I believe more Govt. intervention will only make it worse.  I guarantee you that more taxes, more regulations, expanding subsidies to small farmers, will not make things better.  It will make everyone poorer.  It’s simple math. 

I want to find a way to make healthy food affordable.  I want mothers and fathers to learn to cook again.  I want people to read the labels on what they buy, before they put the stuff in their mouths.  I want families to grow some, or all, of their own food, but you can’t make people do any of that. 

I don’t want Tyson or Smithfield legislated or regulated out of business.  I want people to see inside their chicken houses and CAFOs then come see our chickens and pigs running around in the sunshine, eating grass and leaves and chestnuts.  Let them see our cows grazing away in the pasture or our young goats and lambs romping around at sunset.  Then let the consumer choose.  Transparency is better than regulation.  Openness is superior to legislation.

People should be able to know what’s in the food they eat.  Supermarkets and restaurants should voluntarily make it known.  Then people can make informed choices.  If the sellers won’t release the information, consumers should move along and buy from those who do.  It is not Govt.’s place to get down in the weeds and regulate that kind of behavior.  There are simpler, self policing methods.

As consumers, we’ve gotten lazy.  We want cheap food.  We want to drive about two blocks to get it.  We want to toss the bags, boxes and cans into a trolley and have someone else make sure it’s good for us.  Or, at least that it’s not bad for us.  Hey, adult, Mommy doesn’t look after you anymore.  Take some responsibility.  Stop being so trusting.   I promise you, if we start paying attention and ‘voting’ with our dollars, knives and forks, the food producers, markets and restaurants will follow.  They want their profits.  If we move our dollars elsewhere, things WILL get better.

As a producer, I choose to take some responsibilities, too.  I choose to grow the best tasting, healthiest, food possible.  I choose to ask a fair price for it.  I choose to avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  I choose to avoid soy.  I choose to sell locally, direct to the public.  I choose to make our farm and garden open to the public and let people come in whenever they like.  I choose to teach others how to do the same thing.  I choose to try and persuade Churches, schools and civic groups to adopt ideas like community gardens.  I choose to give away 10% of everything we grow to people who can’t afford to buy it. 

Hmmm, I intended this to be a series of observations rather than conservative libertarian discourse, but there you go.  I know that some of you will go, “Amen.  You preach it.”  Others will tremble in anger.  A few will ‘unfollow’ me on twitter.  And there’s the problem.  Ultimately, we have the same goal.  It is an honorable one.  We are working together, so far, but we are building from different sets of blueprints.  That could become problematic.

I am hoping that what we have in common will be stronger than our differences.  I am hoping, too, that we will be tolerant of each other rather than begin some ugly infighting.  I am hoping, but I am not confident. 

In the surprisingly current words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney:

“Try to see it my way
Do I have to keep on talking
Till I can’t go on?

While you see it your way
Run the risk of knowing that
Our love may soon be gone
We can work it out
We can work it out

Think of what you’re saying
You can get it wrong and still
You think that it’s all right

Think of what I’m saying
We can work it out and
Get it straight or say good night
We can work it out
We can work it out

Life is very short
And there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend

I have always thought
That it’s a crime
So I will ask you once again

Try to see it my way
Only time will tell
If I am right or I am wrong

While you see it your way
There’s a chance that we might
Fall apart before too long
We can work it out
We can work it out

Life is very short
And there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend

I have always thought
That it’s a crime
So I will ask you once again

Try to see it my way
Only time will tell
If I am right or I am wrong

While you see it your way
There’s a chance that we might
Fall apart before too long
We can work it out
We can work it out”

Well, darn, wouldn’t you know it, they were liberals, too… 🙂

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One thought on “Worlds Apart On Common Ground

  1. And then there are the liberal Christians (yes, we get to go to Heaven too) who support this movement also. Hehe, honestly, I’m in an ambiguous place on the spectrum, not disinterested but my combination of choices and beliefs lands me coincidentally slap bang on top of the fence.
    But I do definitely agree with you on this issue. The prominent people in this movement are prominent because they are passionate. They have a flame and are inspired and motivated to make their voices heard. This is reflected in all areas of their lives, so they are also passionate about their beliefs and politics. So it can be hard to listen to these voices sing about the slow food movement and also block out the choruses about politics and religious views. We are definitely a diverse bunch, and I think that speaks to the legitimacy of our cause.

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