It’s a good thing I’m reading these two books simultaneously.
I’m (according to Kindle) 41% of the way through Paul Roberts’ The End of Food. It’s a long book, and thus far Paul has walked me through human history from our first meals of nuts and bark to our current astonishing dichotomy of feast and famine where there are as many overweight/obese people as there are starving people in the world; where industrial agricultural yields have soared, but the vital sources of those yields – water, stable weather patterns, and fertile soil – are being lost at alarming rates; where food is a booming global business, but markets are artificially created, manipulated and propped by government and corporate policies that put more food into the mouths of the fat and more money into the hands of shareholders, while hungry people and farmers starve.
I’m also 90% through Temra Costa’s Farmer Jane. Farmer Jane is a series of essays on women who are changing the face of our food systems across America. Some are farming hundreds of acres of diverse organic meat and produce in fertile California valleys; some are bringing together conventional and organic farmers and ranchers to create policy that protects soil and water supplies where they are most threatened; some are forging supply relationships and bringing high quality food to diners through restaurants that feature sustainably-grown food; some are helping female migrant farm workers advocate for safer working conditions while also forging healthier communities for their families; and some are making documentary films of the effects of industrial agriculture on our bodies, our farmland and our future.
I plan to write a more thorough review of each when I’ve finished them. But for now, I’m overwhelmed. The End of Food paints a startling picture of the complexities of our food system as it stands now, and the even greater complexities of making any changes at all, much less dramatic ideological ones. And Farmer Jane is a gallery of portraits of individuals on the margins of a massive system, working with what they’ve laid claim to, to change what they can. The End of Food is depressing me, and Farmer Jane is refreshing me. Both are challenging me to find my place in addressing the gigantic issues of where our food comes from and how we should be getting it.