Industrial agriculture has yet to embrace organic and sustainable farming. (Is industrial organic an oxymoron?) Less than 1% of crops and livestock in the US are produced organically, and the cost of organic food is prohibitive for most. If we are among the few who can access organic food, there's no guarantee that our children will eat organic food at school, our parents will eat organic food in care facilities, or that organic food can be had while traveling.
Food we grow ourselves can supplement commercial production but cannot replace it - not today, not tomorrow, not next year. Not until we turn these trends around will the majority of us be able to acquire the bulk of our diets from local farms and pastures:
When smaller, more numerous organic farms replace larger, centralized ones, the benefits of economies of scale are lost. Maintaining, let alone increasing output is another challenge. (Agricultural exports have more than quadrupled in the last half century.)1 Is the answer a parallel farming structure, one organic and one conventional? Do we have the resources for that?
Choosing homegrown discriminates against those without the time, labor, and resources to invest in food production. In the future, given the social and political will, and the logistics, networks of community and regional organic farms may sustain more people. For now, window-box tomatoes do not a diet make.
The Promise Of Slow Food
Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, was in attendance at the Slow Food movement's first national event, Slow Food Nation, in 2008. It was one of the largest food events in US history, attracting more than 50,000 people to San Francisco over Labor Day weekend. It celebrated all things sustainable, local, and organic.
Of the event, Schlosser wrote:
"The first Slow Food Nation partly fulfilled [Alice] Waters' broad agenda. It earned high marks for the good and the clean but next time could do a hell of a lot better with the fair.* At the moment, the majority of Americans--ordinary working people, the poor, people of color--do not have a seat at this table. The movement for sustainable agriculture has to reckon with the simple fact that it will never be sustainable without these people. Indeed, without them it runs the risk of degenerating into a hedonistic narcissism for the few."I think he has the answer. Slow Food must enlist the power of the many. It needs their numbers, their voice, their vote. Social and political will requires a majority. When most Americans are eating organic, locally grown, affordable meals, when ordinary grocery store shelves are stocked with organic, locally grown, affordable products, the goal of "good, clean, and fair" food will be realized.
- Slow Food For Thought, The Nation, 2008
* "Good, clean, and fair" is the Slow Food movement's credo. Says Schlosser: "The "good" refers to taste; the "clean," to local, organic, sustainable means of production; and "fair," to a system committed to social justice."