by Miller Saltzman
If you were to go to Laguiole, France you might want to experience their famous Languiole cheese. When you got there, residents would tell you that the cheese is becoming extinct because of industrialization. When the younger generations started to reject the agrarian lifestyle and move into cities, farmers had to figure out how to make money without them. They realized that Holstein cows produced more milk than any other cow. Slowly Aubrac cows, the indigenous cows, started to become extinct. But they realized that the industrial cows produced milk with less fat and less protein that did not taste as good as milk from the indigenous cows. It was useless for making Laguiole cheese and the people living in Laguiole were not as healthy.
Industrial agriculture is destroying traditional farming cultures all over the world. In Slow Food Nation, Carlo Petrini argues that biodiversity and local traditions must be preserved no matter the cost. Industrialization has caused the world to face “ecological bankruptcy.” The only way to fix this problem is to learn from our mistakes and de-industrialize agriculture. The goal of the Slow Food Movement is for food and its production to regain a central place in our lives.
Just over the last twenty-five years one third of mangrove forests and one fifth of coral barriers have vanished. Cultivated land covers one fourth of the earth’s surface. Due to the increasing farmland, water consumption has doubled since 1960, with 70 percent of it used just for agriculture. The emission of nitrates into the soil has doubled, and phosphates have tripled. Although industrialization has had a positive impact on economic development, its long-term cost is too big. We are producing twice the amount of food we need. There are six billion people in the world, and we are producing enough food to feed twelve billion people. We need to slow down, and make our production process healthier and sustainable.
So let’s all become gastronomes! Petrini teaches us that gastronomy is the science that studies food and the culture of food. Since it literally means “the law of the stomach” gastronomes are people who have studied the healthiest way of eating and the art of preparing and cooking food. When food becomes an important part of our lives it will solve many different problems in our communities including hunger and obesity because we will know what to eat. Something that simple should be obvious to us since food is what keeps us alive.
Food needs to be “good, clean, and fair.” The food must taste good. In order for food to taste good it must be grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. “The earth must not be allowed to die, or kept alive like a terminally ill patient, with traumatic methods.” We cannot ignore what industrial agriculture is doing to our land. We need people to understand the consequences so that we, and our earth, will not suffer. Big businesses that control agriculture are benefiting in the short term but will definitely suffer in the long term and we need to make sure they know that so they can change their ways before it’s too late.
Clean food is produced in a way that doesn’t waste or overuses natural resources during the food’s journey from the farm to the plate. It must be sustainable, meaning it is produced in order to satisfy the needs of those who consume it but not oversupply it. Too much food and natural resources go to waste unnecessarily because people don’t think about how their food got to their plate. We need to learn more about where our food comes from because, when we do, we will see that industrial agriculture is hurting our world.
Fair food means respecting the workers and their knowledge and connection to the land. “The fair, socially speaking, means fairness for the people who work the soil, respect for those who still love it and treat it with respect, as a source of life.” Americans don’t know who’s producing their food and how little they’re being paid. The information needs to be out there for people to see. When we are driving down the freeway billboards should say things like “You support unfair wages for farmers” instead of “Geico can save you 20 percent or more on car insurance.”
The only way for our food to be good, clean, and fair is to deindustrialize our farmland, giving the earth and natural environment priority. First, we must reject everything that’s unnatural and unsustainable including pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Second, all intensive methods of production must be rejected because we don’t need to increase production. Third, there must be a preference to locally grown food so the natural system can regulate itself. Fourth, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not an option because they’re unsustainable. Fifth, we must reject monoculture because it ruins the biodiversity of our soil.
In order for all of this to happen we have to promote old techniques of small-scale production and organic farming. We must also bring back the relationship between man and nature. Gastronomy must become a subject that is taught in all schools and colleges, especially to young children. We must teach our children that food can taste great and be great for your health.
We are an unhealthy nation because we don’t teach gastronomy in schools. Teaching children about food is just as important as teaching them to read and write. This should be taught starting in kindergarten. Kids need to experience sustainable agriculture at a young age. They need to be taught where raw food comes from. They need to harvest it, cook it and eat it. In middle school and high school kids should learn how to buy and cook healthy food. This is the only way we can promote a sustainable and healthy lifestyle in American society and there is no reason why we can’t start right now.
We all have to become as involved as our kids by becoming co-producers in the growing of our food. This will create responsible communities where someone who was once a consumer can become a gastronome—someone who knows how to choose healthy food options. We must support this new effort and help it break ground in our communities. If we do this we can create a productive, food-centered community—a “food community” as Petrini calls it.
We also have to change our lifestyle to follow a slower mentality. This “quest for slowness” will allow us to rebel against “impoverishment of taste” in our lives and rediscover taste. According to the Slow Food movement’s Manifesto, “Speed has become our chain; we are all victims of the same virus, the fast life, which distorts our habits, assails us in our very homes, forces us to eat in the fast-food restaurants.” We must slow down and look at the world with more attention and less distraction. We need to respect nature and not use it for our private gain, but instead for the common good. By slowing down we will improve our pleasure, knowledge, and quality of life.
Slow Food Nation makes me excited about the future of food. I’ve always been frustrated and disgusted by our countries love of fast food and this is the chance to break that love for good. It’s important for us to learn that although fast food might seem like the easiest route to take, if we slow down a bit, and take the time to pay attention to what is really going on, we will realize that America has a problem with food and we need to change.
Yes, it’s almost impossible to get people to slow down. Although organic produce and small sustainable organic farms have become a new fad in America, we don’t give it enough time to merit a change in our lifestyle. The Slow Food movement needs to figure out a way to catch the eye of the average busy American. We need to do something radical to change our radical ways that seem normal and flawless to the average fast-paced American. It’s up to us.
For more information on how to get involved go to: slowfoodnation.org