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Friday, June 25, 2010

Food Made Visible

Food Made Visible

by Michael Pollan  

It might sound odd to say this about something people deal with at least three times a day, but food in America has been more or less invisible, politically speaking, until very recently. At least until the early 1970s, when a bout of food price inflation and the appearance of books critical of industrial agriculture (by Wendell Berry, Francis Moore Lappé, and Barry Commoner, among others) threatened to propel the subject to the top of the national agenda, Americans have not had to think very hard about where their food comes from, or what it is doing to the planet, their bodies, and their society.

Most people count this a blessing. Americans spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than any people in history—slightly less than 10 percent—and a smaller amount of their time preparing it: a mere thirty-one minutes a day on average, including clean-up. The supermarkets brim with produce summoned from every corner of the globe, a steady stream of novel food products (17,000 new ones each year) crowds the middle aisles, and in the freezer case you can find “home meal replacements” in every conceivable ethnic stripe, demanding nothing more of the eater than opening the package and waiting for the microwave to chirp. Considered in the long sweep of human history, in which getting food dominated not just daily life but economic and political life as well, having to worry about food as little as we do, or did, seems almost a kind of dream.

The dream that the age-old “food problem” had been largely solved for most Americans was sustained by the tremendous postwar increases in the productivity of American farmers, made possible by cheap fossil fuel (the key ingredient in both chemical fertilizers and pesticides) and changes in agricultural policies. Asked by President Nixon to try to drive down the cost of food after it had spiked in the early 1970s, Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz shifted the historical focus of federal farm policy from supporting prices for farmers to boosting yields of a small handful of commodity crops (corn and soy especially) at any cost.

The administration’s cheap food policy worked almost too well: crop prices fell, forcing farmers to produce still more simply to break even. This led to a deep depression in the farm belt in the 1980s followed by a brutal wave of consolidation. Most importantly, the price of food came down, or at least the price of the kinds of foods that could be made from corn and soy: processed foods and sweetened beverages and feedlot meat. (Prices for fresh produce have increased since the 1980s.) Washington had succeeded in eliminating food as a political issue—an objective dear to most governments at least since the time of the French Revolution.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Farmers’ Markets lead economic growth and real food production in NZ

Farmers’ Markets NZ lead the revolution of .......

Media Release June 2010

The closing of the third Farmers’ Markets New Zealand Conference held in Hamilton on June 6-8 brought to the forefront the importance of transparency and authenticity for all who attended. Delegates and key note speakers from America, England, Australia and New Zealand converged for three days for networking and sharing with the word “local” on the tastes buds of all.    
Keith Stewart, self confessed foodie and radio live talk back host, was serious when he claimed we are in the middle of a revolution.  “We are at war, and we need to figure out who is on our side.”  Keith spoke to the delegates reminding them that we are the future food producers of New Zealand .  
Farmers’ Markets have grown sustainably ever since there introduction to NZ. Just 10 years ago Hawkes Bay, Marlborough and Otago were the founding Farmers’ Markets of these regional, economic growth incubators, now over 50 locations through out NZ operate on a weekly basis. This being New Zealand’s main point of difference to the rest of the world, most operating farmers’ markets on a monthly basis.
Gareth Jones (FARMA, UK) holds NZ up as a shining example of farmers’ markets working together to achieve the same goal. The majority of markets in the UK run on a fortnightly or monthly basis. They would never have sat in the same room together, let alone co-elaborated on future goals and strategies, of how to provide economic stimulus to regional and urban communities.
Chairperson of Farmers’ Markets NZ, Chris Fortune, summed up the conference with, “NZ regional food producers  will make a long term economic and social difference in our local communities, not the promises made by council men seeking re-election or the corporate multi-national faceless companies that give us products they call food. This revolution will be led by the blueberry producers of Marlborough, the free range pork producers of the Waikato and the thousands of other real food producers of NZ.  They are already playing an integral part in the lives of the everyday consumers that chooses to do their weekly shop at NZ farmers’ markets.”
The highlight of the conference was hearing from the newly appointed Patron of FMNZ, Bernadine Prince, co-founder of 15 farmers’ markets in Washington DC, which includes the newest farmers’ market opened at the White House.  “NZ could be the leader of sustainable farming, feeding its own communities and be a continuing shining light in the world of farmers’ markets.”  This was Bernie’s 4th visit to NZ in relation to farmers’ markets and she returns to Washington DC with as much information as she imparted to the delegates of the FMNZ Conference.  She will share her new found knowledge with the newly founded American Coalition of Farmers’ Markets of which she is vice-president.
The key behind what all farmers’ markets have been doing over the last decade is Authenticity.  Focus being on transparency and now is the time for all regional food producers of NZ to stand up and claim what they own and protect their only tangible asset. This tangible asset that we can truly claim to be our own and grow together are the two words “farmers’ market”.
FMNZs  long-term focus is on the future transparency of farmers’ markets - the future is not only next week’s farmers’ market, or next years farmers’ market but farmers’ markets in 10 and 20 years time.