Last night I had the pleasure of attending the event Farm to Fork: Food Dialogues hosted by The Collegiate Young Farmers at OSU. The event was free and included a nice dinner: a side salad, eggplant, and fruit salad for dessert. The main course was rice wrapped in a delicate slice of eggplant served with a red sauce, it makes my mouth water now thinking about it.
Farm to Fork Food Dialogues encouraged discussion of agriculture and food production focusing on biotechnology. The first portion of the event was table discussions and I just so happen to sit next to a master candidate in the Department of Anthropology, Mark Anthony Arceno, who is ‘learning through food.’ You should check out his blog where he talks about “learning about people and cultures through the foods they prepare and consume; the recipes which have been passed down, shared and adapted over time; and the meaning behind the meal. Situated within an ethnographic approach to food and a passion for "feeding the experience," I extend my foodie platform to include the cutting board, the in-between from farm to table.”
Following the dinner conversation was a panel discussion. This is when I started to get frustrated. I understand we have two ears to listen and only one mouth to talk but when everyone else is using ‘twitter’ to tweet comments and I am sitting here thinking I do not even know what twitter is. By the end of the evening those of you who know me can only imagine I was jumping out of my chair and one of my table mates let me borrow his ipad to tweet something. But of course I get the ipad and I have no idea how to tweet so someone had to help me and by the time I tweeted the discussion was over… A few of the conversation topics were what does local mean? Does it mean food miles, community impact, increasing transparency, regional food system? Then one fellow on the panel suggested that it was local if he bought it from him local grocery store it did not matter is it came from Ecuador? What do you think? I was about to tell him what I think but then I thought better of it. I realize the food did not come from the moon. But that cannot be local, can it? To me local means a days drive, that I can visit the place and the people that produced the food. To me local means supporting your local community and buying from farmers who live, work, and sell in your own neighborhood. We discussed GMO genetically modified foods and the push for labeling. Do we have a right to know what is in our food? Someone asked, is not using GMO even and option? Well is it? Where does our food come from? One of the panelists was an organic farmer and he talked about organic being labor and hard work. Isn’t that what farming always has been? The conventional farmer made it seems as though he never even touched his soil the machinery and technology did it for him. He did not even have to till his field, no more brown snow he said because his soil stays put. My question is if we are no longer touching the earth how are we connected to the earth? What kind of food are we producing and what is it doing to our bodies? My work as an artist has always been about food as a vessel maker it is something that I am constantly considering. In my recent work I realized I could not make something for or about a plant with out knowing how it grows. So I started growing and yes it is a lot of work. I am at the greenhouse at least three days a week if not more. I spend hours there planting, watering, transplanting and tending to the needs of all of my plants. But I know more now about these plants and what they need then I could ever get purchasing them at the grocery store. Maybe all we need is to connect back to the earth? The last portion of the discussion was on food safety. This I when my table mate let me send a tweet in I said, “how can you claim food is safe when you sold me something contaminated with salmonella?” That salmonella changed the entire course of my life in ways it is hard to go into now but the reality is they knew the food was contaminated and still chose to ship it out to consumers. So I ask again how can you tell me the food is safe?