I heart Katherine Gustafson. She’s a regular writer at change.org’s Sustainable Food blog. Her style and topics get me fired up every time. Yesterday she posted an article on an essay by a guy named Richard Keller, who is editor of a trade magazine called AgProfessional (“a magazine dedicated to serving ag retailers, crop consultants, and farm managers”) in which he harshly criticizes advocates of local, sustainable eating/growing as “the new hippies”, “upper-class individuals who hire gardener-entrepreneurs to turn their yards into food gardens”, and “city dwellers who are doing some type of communal gardens, rooftop gardens, patio gardens, etc., who weren’t growing any of their food a few years ago. Now, it’s a way to impress your friends and be hip.”
Retorts Katherine, “Here I was thinking my lack of designer duds and swanky apartment was limiting my hipness factor. I guess if I just grow a few more rooftop tomatoes, my popularity is sure to spike.”
She further quoted Keller: “I’m positive that many of these new generation hippies will soon realize growing natural/organic food is no picnic,” writes Keller. “They will continue to demand natural food; but they will stop breaking their backs raising it. These new hippies will still brag about eating natural and more healthy than the peons of the world.”
And finally (see why I like her?) Katherine ends with this:
Last time I checked, consumers who demand a product and are willing to pay others to make it are considered the bulwarks of free-market capitalism. And I thought capitalism was something all those Big Ag advocates were in favor of. Or has too many years of corporate welfare from government grain subsidies made them forget what a free market really looks like?
My own thoughts, which were the substance of my comment on her post:
And here I thought growing our containers of tomatoes and peppers on the balcony was a way to get really fresh tasting tomatoes and peppers and enjoy the pleasure of nurturing a plant that in turns nurtures me. Turns out it’s a ploy to look hip, and if I had any sense I would hire a gardener-entrepreneur to do the work for me.
I like to think this kind of embittered editorializing is a reaction to the fact that the food movement is gaining some traction and farmers who’ve been way off in left field all this time are finally attracting the applause of eaters who’ve decided, upon seeing the disgusting cesspool that is a CAFO or the dusty dead dirt being forced by chemicals to yeild toxic potatoes, that maybe it’s worth a little personal labor to wrap our mouths around something that won’t make us vomit. And in the process we’ve discovered we’re feeling a little better, mentally and physically, for it.
If Keller were attacking marketing [of some 'natural foods'] and some of the hypocrisies of that marketing then I’d be inclined to conceed [the point] but Keller seems to be going right for those who actually are participating by growing their own food or working closely with those who are growing their own food.
It is that this has become hip that has him ticked off. Americans have been gardening for decades. Sometimes less, sometimes more, but Burpee Seeds has been around since 1876 and all my relatives have grown tomatoes and green beans for as long as I can remember. That it’s now “hip” to be doing it is part of a much larger movement in which people are taking notice of the affect of food-related variables on the complex systems in which we exist. When huge issues like health care, disease/obesity, poverty, climate change and nutrition all intersect around one subject – food – it’s not surprising that it becomes a target of attention among those who like to think about how to make the world better.
I am not ashamed to be called “the new hippies”.
By the way, while I wrote this post, I made coffee and forgot to put the pot on the machine. Coffee went everywhere. No danger of me being hip anytime soon.