There was once a brilliant essay written called Self-Reliance. It contains the most thorough statement of one of Emerson’s repeating themes, the need for each individual to “avoid conformity and false consistency, and follow his or her own instincts and ideas.” I think Emerson’s voice is something we all need to listen to again when addressing the future of how we will eat. My thoughts turned to Emerson after reading the chapter “A year of eating locally” in Deep Economy by Bill Mckibben. The sections that disturbed me the most states that “American may soon get out of the food business because it will be unprofitable to tie up resources in farming and ranching.” Who has decided that the ability to feed ourselves is unprofitable? This mindset started taking shape as early as 1999.
I take you now to 2011 and the realities of this in action right this very moment in my local, regionally owned health food store. As I reached for the bag of apples on my list, I paused as I saw something incredibly disturbing. Shocked at what I saw, I immediately asked the produce manager if this was true – was I truly looking at a bag of organic apples from CHILE. What makes this even worse is the fact its September, the front end of the apple season in the USA. He explained that it was the only apples the organic supplier had. An organic apple that has traveled over 3,000 miles is in no way, shape or form part of a sustainable agriculture system. I refused to buy those apples, as should you. The carbon footprint of those apples negates any organic quality those apples may possess.
In the spirit of Emerson, we must use our own judgement if we truly care about the future of eating in the USA. Our greatest power is the power of how we spend our dollars and the only way to change the system is to not buy those things which are inconsistent with supporting a sustainable future for all of us. So I urge you today to just make one commitment to how you buy food – buy only food grown in the USA. Because at this juncture what is most important is we keep farmers farming in the USA – helping them grow more organic food will be the next step.