Although I find my work at the Center for an Agricultural Economy extremely interesting and rewarding, there are times when it feels tedious or just overwhelming. At these times, I like to frame my work as an act of subversion – a revolutionary act. Although in some ways eating locally seems like such a simple and basic thing, this is just what it is – revolutionary.
Sixty plus years ago or so, many people in our society produced their own food and naturally lived their lives within a local food system, without thinking twice about it. Then our food system was co-opted by large corporations. Food prices dropped dramatically for various reasons – mechanization and farming on a larger scale did allow our food to be produced at a cheaper cost of production (but not without losing other things), federal agricultural subsidies were developed and implemented, and not all of the costs of production were passed along directly to the consumer (aka externalities in economics - these do have their costs, however, in environmental damage, resource loss, and consumer and farm worker health costs.) This condition of prevalent and cheap food led the public to abandon their local farmer and their local communities.
In time, awareness has grown about what has been lost because of the mega-systems we have put into place. Farms are lost, open land is lost, communities are damaged socially and economically, our soil is depleted, food doesn’t have the flavor and nutrient value that it once did.
Working to support local food systems is being part of this grassroots effort to reclaim our communities and our local economies, as well as our right to healthy food and a healthy environment. It is work against the faceless, soul-less and often immoral mega-corporations and a system that has been built to produce a profit for those who have more than enough already, at any cost whatsoever. This is a subversive reclamation movement toward a world that is more kind, more human, and to a more appropriate scale. We can all choose to be a part of it in different ways – from making it your career path as a farmer or at an organization that works with food systems in some capacity, to simply buying local carrots at the farmers market or local co-op.
So when I sit at my computer, day after day (and I’m sure many see me doing it as they walk by our big office window!), I like to think of myself as a subversive revolutionary – it gets my juices going after they’ve been sucked up by the computer screen!