There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that modern U.S. food industry, a combination of agribusiness and corporate food processors, tends to be harmful to our environment, our health, and the viability of our rural communities. Many of the leading agribusiness companies are actively attempting to use genetic modification and the loosening of restrictions on patent law to create virtually monopoly control of the agricultural sector.
But the agribusiness model is not an inevitable nor inescapable feature of our world. There is a growing movement to return to “slow food,” more sustainable ways of cultivating, obtaining, and preparing food, ways which typically hearkening back to the traditional methods which have stood the test of time. Mark Pollan, one of the primary spokesmen of this movement has come up with a slogan which distills the essential concept behind the Slow Food movement. “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”—advice rather consistent with the essential dietary concepts of the Word of Wisdom.
Additionally, instead of relying on impersonal, sprawling international networks of commerce spanning thousands of miles, the movement seeks to re-integrate and bolster local producer-consumer networks. The U.S. has a strong rural tradition, as much here in Utah and in the history of the Church as anywhere. But we seem to have become confused as to what that means. Idealizing the superficial trappings of rural life—boots, hats, rodeos, or country music—does nothing substantial to support or honor that rural heritage. If we really want to show respect for that heritage, we should support the vocation and lifestyle which is at the root of traditional rural communities: the family farmer.
There is a growing assortment of alternative options from which you can make more sustainable food choices. And with the growing season soon upcoming, now is an good time to see what appeals to you. We can grow our own food through gardening (I know two local bloggers who are raising their own chickens for eggs and poultry in urban/suburban communities). There are a number of local organizations involved in education on local gardening, such as Wasatch Gardens and the Utah botanical Center in Kaysville. Maybe you would enjoy the dynamic community atmosphere of the various farmers markets around the state part of a renewed tradition around the U.S. over the past couple decades. Consider joining a local CSA, or (Community Supported Agriculture), in which you purchase shares of a local farmer’s harvest, providing the farmer more money up-front and therefore more financial security, and providing you with seasonal fresh produce. When you decide to eat out, look into one of the restaurants which chose to patronize local food producers.
As we support these alternatives, we will build more sustainable agricultural and economic networks. We will develop more ecologically beneficial food systems and protect the bio-diversity of the world’s bounty. We will promote more healthful diets.
And you may just find that real food tastes better.