Yesterday I went to the Walnut Cafe for breakfast; I was hungover and the spinach and cream cheese omelet with sides of toast and potatoes really hit the spot. After returning home, my wife cooked up some delicious rice and beans, which we feasted on for lunch and dinner, snacking on some Newman’s Own cookies in between. Sans the cookies, these were all good, somewhat healthy meals that I feel ok about eating. Thing is though, I couldn’t tell you where one single ingredient came from. I know the rice came from Costco and the beans came from Vitamin Cottage, but I don’t know where either of them gets their food. Even though I have a basic understanding of farming (I interned at a CSA last summer) and have relationships with a couple local farms, I wouldn’t know what to do if suddenly the grocery stores were empty. It seems like a paranoid thing that the grocery stores would ever be out of food, certainly not many people give too much serious thought to it, but it sure is possible.
I moved to Boulder six years ago and in that short amount of time, an uncountable amount of road & building construction has occurred. There are multiple malls that have sprung up in the surrounding counties and I cannot even begin to think of a number to put with the amount of tract housing that has appeared in the last half-decade. Because we are using more and more of our open space for housing (mostly housing for rich people, buying vacation homes or places with entirely too much space) or retail, we are using less and less of it for uses that will actually help us as a species. I read this article today about rising food prices and it got me thinking. If there is a drought in Russia, the entire European continent has to pay higher prices for wheat. Is this because Russia has the only land suitable for growing wheat in a thousand mile radius? People don’t put two and two together when there is some sort of food shortage. They don’t say to themselves, “wait a minute, we are completely out of food, yet we have millions of acres of unused land.” Instead, they riot. I have said before that I am not against riots, but all they do in a situation like this is only temporarily solving a problem. People will break things, light other things on fire, and probably get some food for the day. Maybe their government will even find a way to lower prices for the time being, until everything calms down. The riots end, people still are a little angry, but they go back to what they were doing before.
Damn near everyone knows how to drive a car or play a sport, but farming remains a foreign thing to most. Imagine 1/3 of people planted a garden in their backyard. Imagine in every inner-city, abandoned parking lots and building roofs were being used to grow some food. This would not solve the world’s food distribution problem, but it would be eye opening and empowering for everyone involved. It is maddening that food is something controlled by faceless corporations who care more about profit than whether or not you get a healthy, affordable dinner tonight. The acquisition of food is a basic human right; the acquisition of money is not. Take the power back, grow a cucumber or a tomato plant, think about the food you buy, don’t let the Monsanto’s of the world win.