Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dinner forks or pitchforks?

What an interesting day it's been.  Started darn early, picking up some neat people to come to the Bring Food Home Conference here is Kitchener Waterloo, and I am very tired, and presenting tomorrow, but I wanted to jot down some thoughts on the keynote here tonight before I forget...  my writing may not be brilliant, but it will be timely, and that's gotta count for something, right?
The speaker was Joel Salatin- you may be familiar with him as the farmer in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (which you should read, if you haven't.  Really.).  His farm is pretty amazing- high on design and portable infrastructure, respecting the "pigness of pigs" and the "tomatoness of tomatoes" and building soils. He is lively and liberatarian (sorry about that spelling).  There was a lot that he said that really hit home- his comments about society's that don't respect the fundamental nature of animals and plants not being able to respect the nature of human individuals, his talk of how separate we make ourselves by zoning rules and the way that industry becomes nasty and unpleasant when it moves beyond a human scale, so that we separate all these aspects of life that used to be integrated, all made a lot of sense.  Zoning bylaws are what make urban agriculture so difficult to create in our cities- and many housing areas have issues with people composting or planting any food bearing plants.

Like a raspberry bush is an eyesore.  It's like the folks in my neighbourhood who complain about the sound of the playground.  Yeesh.  Move into your coffin already.

Joel really preached civil disobedience for the ludicrous regulations that are ostensibly for food safety, but that generally serve to make it very difficult for small producers to sell their produce- like the infamous case of Michael Schmidt, the Owen Sound farmer who was taken down (seriously- six cop cars came to arrest the man) for his Community Shared Agriculture he had set up to allow people in his community to have access to raw, organic milk.  Now, there's a debate about the benefits and dangers of raw milk which I won't get into here, but I'm pretty firmly on the side that if I choose to drink something unpasteurized (which I have in Ecuador, served warm from the cow, as they said, and it was sweet and good), well, I figure it's my choice.  I'm with Joel on that one too.

It was his mention of pitchforks (in the storming the castle way, not the pitching hay kind of way) and his firm belief that deregulating food production and allowing more inner city urban farms would somehow alleviate hunger pretty quickly (which it might) that very much highlighted the differences between our lovely neighbours to the south and us Canucks.  Well, that and our obvious hockey superiority. But he barely mentioned that- like he was ashamed of being a loser or something. But pitchforks, not hockey sticks.  But indeed, his clear anger at the government (and I have heard this from Canadian farmers too, and it's a similar story of anti-regulation) that was really new for me. 

And you know, despite my left leaning tendancies, when it comes to food, I don't want regulation, I want education.  And that's the final point I'll leave with before some much needed sleep- Joel spoke extensively of creating patrons for a food system- patrons who would be willing to pay for good food, who enjoy developing their culinary skills, who court the meal that they put in front of people, who build a relationship with their food.  And really, that is where I am going to put my efforts. Into being an educator who introduces people to real food.  Food, meet people.  People, food. Chicken has bones and comes from a bird.  Here's what you can do to eat that bird with joy. 

Yup.  That's my calling.

And bock bock, I'm off to bed here at lovely Cheryl's, who is putting me up for tonight and tomorrow night.  Presenting tomorrow morning...  Urban hen policy!

1 comment:

Wendy said...

"Yeesh. Move into your coffin already." - You're a riot! Imagine if there were raspberry bushes and strawberry plants on the way to school - yum. There's nothing like a sun-warmed strawberry. 'Twas good to see you tonight. xo