Food is one of the most intimate experiences of life. Think about food and all of our interactions with it on a daily basis. We wake up. We eat. If we don’t eat, we wish we had eaten. Most of our plans for the day are made around our eating schedule. We plan activities before lunch and after lunch; we plan to eat dinner with certain people at certain times.
Food consumes a vast amount of brain space for most people on a daily basis, not to mention the time we actually spend eating, and it’s ultimately for good cause. We have to eat to survive. And, if we are going to be eating for nourishment shouldn’t we know what it is we are eating? On top of that, shouldn’t we be able to enjoy what we are eating both from a flavor standpoint and a conscious standpoint? Yet, how many of us can look down at our meal and list where the food came from or what is in it? If you are like me the farthest you can trace most meals is to the teenager who handed it to you through the window or the store isle you plucked it from. How many of us finish a meal feeling unsatisfied or even slightly guilty at the amount of unidentified substance we just crammed into our mouths? Is this the way food is meant to be done?
I have come to learn over the years that I have a heritage of farming. Both of my grandparents on both sides of my family grew up on farms that were in our family for generations. But, like so many others, they saw the demise of farming in America. By the time my parents were born, all farming operations had been shut down and the respective family members had gone on to find other occupations outside of the food industry. And, just like that, farming was no longer a part of my family’s life.
So, why did this happen? The obvious answer is innovation and technology, which can only be good, right? Well, unfortunately what started out by bringing us larger quantities of consistent food supply has also led to many unintentional consequences. The family farms that thrived off having a diverse range of products, known as bio-diverse farming, were replaced with large single crop farms, or monoculture farming, through the use of newly invented mechanical equipment and chemical additives. These methods, though, have led to enormous land degradations and the loss of natural eco-systems that were once fed by the bio-diverse farming of family farms across the country.
As farming has transitioned into this highly efficient machine, the natural limits of agriculture have been altered to increase profitability through longer shelf life and artificial appearances. Therefore, products that are often months old will continue to sell regardless of the fact that they are void of their nutritional properties, not to mention flavor. While this is just a very brief snapshot of a very complex industry, it helps begin to paint the picture of how we arrived at our current predicament with food. As we move forward in this project, we will unpack this further, looking at many types of farming and food, from proven methods and trusted recipes, to technological advancements and the exploration of new techniques.