Reconnecting Society’s Food Roots
The U.S. food industry has made it so convenient for our society to eat that many consumers are disconnecting from the land and plugging into something else.
This disconnect is happening as the result of the success of the American food industry. It is the fact that we’ve made it so easy to grab a meal that many people are disconnecting. Many North Carolinians are fortunate enough to not worry about food security, so they probably never consider the matrix of economic cycles being held together by the roots of food production.
It is not until the holiday season or during an emergency or natural disaster that the average person may even pause from their busy life and consider the logistics of providing basic food and water to those in need somewhere else hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
The truth is the availability of safe, nutritious food doesn’t just happen like sunrise and sunset; it takes long-term planning based on well-developed policy positions.
The land disconnect phenomenon, however, is not a sign of disrespect or an insult to the farmers who work so hard to produce the bread, protein, fresh produce and dairy products that help feed the world’s population. North Carolina produced nearly 50 percent of the nation’s sweet potatoes, almost 9 percent of its broiler chickens and 8 percent of its blueberries during 2008.
It is more of an opportunity for us to try and help people remember how once upon a time, practically everyone farmed to live. They had to grow greens and peas and raise some livestock or they didn’t eat. Many families traded with their neighbors to keep things fresh and enjoy a product that didn’t exactly sprout to life in their soil. Just like the past, the future must also embrace this local food model.
With the help of transportation, technology and the improved convenience of our food supply, more than 98 percent of the U.S. population now doesn’t actively grow enough food to feed one person—much less the 100 or more that can be served by a single modern farmer. That leaves less than two percent of the population to feed the rest, and they do more than an above average job of working with all variables to ultimately make the right choices to grow our food.
There is a trust that society has placed upon each grower. The vast majority of farmers take this unspoken contract seriously and with the best of intentions. However, as with any profession, a random bad actor is often displayed as an industry portrait to the larger society via the media and other communications channels.
Because this trust exists, however, it is farmers who will respond to the United Nations advanced warning to the governments of the world. We will need 70 percent more food within 40 years. It will take all the good farmers—large, medium and small—under agriculture’s big tent to feed the world’s estimated 9 billion people by 2050.