Food is what seems to be on my mind lately, and also seems to be in the news relatively often these days. It is not on my mind just because my farm is part of the food production system in the US, but also because I am a consumer. I started by wondering why everyone thinks we all need to eat the same things, (vegan activists, and meat eaters who think vegans are crazy and want to reform them). I really don’t care if you want to eat vegetables all them time, I just care that it is a well balanced diet that provides essential amino acids and vitamins. I like to eat meat, and that will never change.
Then, I started thinking about my son’s school lunches and how most of the food in his first semester of Kindergarten resembled nothing I had while attending the same school in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Our food was made from scratch and we had cooks that could “cook”. If you ate all of your lunch you had the opportunity to get this wonderful homemade bread with peanut butter for dessert, as there was not dessert included with the meal as dessert is a reward in my mind. It is not that his meals were horrible, they just were all processed (pizza, chicken nuggets, etc.), carb overload in my mind, and not enough protein. They mostly (4 days out of 5) included some kind of cake, etc for dessert.
How did we get here was my question. I had great meals at school, and to my son’s credit, he raves about the meals at school and how much he loves certain things. I took a look at the new menu’s this semester and have noticed some change from cake, etc. to fruits and other things instead of a true dessert. They still have cookies, or cake once or twice a week, which I personally think they should only get if they finish their balanced meal.
So, my point is that as much as the public wants to blame farmers and the processors for the food system here in the US and the problems it has, the reality is that for the most part, production follows the trends of the public whether they are trends based on science, or based on rumor, the system adapts. Look at the grocery section now and look at the products(whole grain, whole wheat, natural, etc.) and tell me that the system doesn’t adapt.
The fact is that many years ago people were complaining they didn’t have the time to make meals with the demands on a family’s time(jobs, extra curricular activities, etc.). So, what did the food production system here in the US do? We came up with heat and eat meals, processed foods, etc. so working Moms and Dads had the opportunity to have an inexpensive, quick meal at home, instead of stopping by the local fast food restaurant to pick up supper.
Now, we might be moving back towards that time when people want to make their own meals from scratch. The Foodie movement as some call it. Put in your own ingredients because then you know what is in that casserole, or you can make chicken nuggets with just flour and some Panko crumbs, or graham cracker crumbs, but you know there is no sugar, extra salt, etc. because YOU made it. Grow a garden to have a connection to your food. Buy from farmers markets, etc. Farmers like myself have no problem with this and actually do these things ourselves. Local food production is a good thing, just not incredibly viable in December in Chicago or most of the Midwest for that matter.
I personally am not into the organic, natural, etc., however, I do not begrudge you the choice to purchase these products. Do I fundamentally disagree because I believe it creates inefficiencies that in essence result in less production, which result in someone in this world not having food? Absolutely, but it is a food choice, and you have the right to make it, and farmers have the right to use that production system to provide you that product if you desire it. I believe we have a great system here in the US that provides us some great food “choices”. Some people in this world do not have “choices”. We are very blessed and I believe we take it for granted. Farmers, Ranchers, Dairymen, and other producers of our food, feed and fiber take the greatest care in the world to raise our food every day whether rainy, sunny, warm, cold, blizzarding, storming, flooding, or drought, they are out there every day trying to provide a safe, cost effective, nutritious product to feed this country and others around the world.
My point is that we all adapt and change, and your food system has done that many times in the short history of our country. Be thankful you have choices.
I am proud to be an American Farmer!