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Why Local Foods Matter

January 14, 2010

I’m not posting much in January because I’m teaching an intensive course at Calvin College.

I’m teaching about food, of course, and I’m really thankful that I am because as I continue to review the material–books, films, essays–I’m reminded why I’m so committed to the issue of local food. Why does local food matter to me? Because people and communities matter. And the lives of our communities are highly influenced by whatever food culture we have.

We watch a number of documentaries in the class, including The Real Dirt on Farmer John, the story of Farmer John Peterson and the CSA Angelic Organics.

Students write reflections on two of the four films (their choice) and I was particularly touched by Elizabeth Clousing’s. I’m reprinting her reflection here–with her permission, of course. I hope you find it as encouraging and inspiring as I have. (It’s also a little sad.)

Reflection on The Real Dirt on Farmer John

This film had many of the same ideas we have been reading about and discussing in class. One of the main ideas shared in both this film and class is the importance of the CSA. Eat Well really focused on how being a part of the CSA can be beneficial to both parties involved. Simply reading about how a CSA farm works would not have given me the amount of understanding I now have. Seeing it played out in a film was very helpful. It was great to watch all the city people start to realize the amount of work that goes into their food. I think they really came to appreciate good quality food and how much work goes into it.

This film had many ups and downs scattered throughout it. For me, the most hopeful part of the film was seeing the interns enjoy everything the farm had to offer. It may seem crazy to most people to become a farm intern and live on the land in a hippie sort of life style, but watching them brought me a lot of joy. It’s not for everyone, but I would really enjoy doing something like this. I think it’s very important to have some connection to the land and know where everything you’re putting in your body came from. Having the interns on the farm reminded John of how things used to be back when he was in college. It brought me joy to see art, music, and the connection with the land combine together. Both the interns and people from the 60’s seemed to live in harmony with each other and the land, leaving behind their busy lives and all the problems that accompanied them. I realize this style of living can not go on forever but I have some desire for it. I have a desire to feel more connected to the land I live on along with being able to express this connection through art and music.

There was a scene in this movie that showed a man talking about how small family farms were disappearing. Speaking only a few sentences about this nearly brought him to tears. I hate to admit it, but watching him struggle through talking about this almost made me cry. This man reminded me of my hard-working grandpa. Although my grandpa only made it through the eighth grade, he is one of the wisest people I know. He grew up in the Netherlands and quit school to work on the farm in order to produce enough food for the rest of the members in his family. He started his own dairy farm in New York after moving to America. The farm is still there today, and is now owned by my uncle. All of the cows had to be sold because they could not make enough money. Big companies have left many of the surrounding farms vacant. These were all of my grandpa’s friends who were almost like family. I had even met and talked to some of these farmers. My mother tells stories about shaking hands on Sunday mornings. Most farmers had lost a few digits as a result of farming accidents. Thinking about these things on more of a personal level really makes you realize the importance of supporting small farms.

I have seen my grandpa speak of the farm as this old man did in the movie. There is so much passion and longing behind both of their eyes. I wanted to hear more after this film. I had a desire to learn more about the types of things my grandpa grew and raised. After class was over, I walked to my grandpa’s apartment and he told me many stories and was very excited I was a part of a class like this. He has always talked about how sad it is that kids these days don’t even know what tomato plant looks like. At the center of all of these stories was hard work and dedication.

I was listening my favorite band, mewithoutYou, while writing this. The newest CD is all about living in the land and a few songs are even specifically about farming. One of my favorite lines, “We all well know, we’re gunna reap what we sow,” brought on many reflective thoughts. The things we do now or the seeds we plant are going to affect what happens in the future or what grows from that seed. Giving organic food importance now will really help future generations and the choices they make concerning what they eat and grow. If we don’t get a move on it now, all of the small farms and farm families will be gone. It will be very hard to get these back. Sowing a good seed by investing in these organic foods is going to reap a brighter future for others.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Sarah Grant Duff permalink
    January 16, 2010 7:23 pm

    Joy I am so glad to hear that you are continuing to educate people about where our food comes from and that it does matter how it’s grown. i enjoyed reading your student’s reflection.

    On a different topic completely I found the old cook book from WPGP and i made the Middle Eastern Potato gratin submitted by Cora Hallet (boy could she ever cook). The casserole was very comforting and tasty. I thought of you because I read some of your recipes in it too.

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