What better day than Thanksgiving to celebrate our country’s food rebels!
I’m talking about the growing movement of small farmers, food artisans, local retailers, co-ops, community organizers, restaurateurs, environmentalists, consumers, and others – perhaps including you. This movement has spread the rich ideas of sustainability, organic, local economies, and the Common Good from the fringe of our food economy into the mainstream.
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It began as an “upchuck rebellion” – ordinary folks rejecting the industrialized, chemicalized, corporatized, and globalized food system. Farmers wanted a more natural connection to the good earth that they were working. Meanwhile, consumers began seeking edibles that were not saturated with pesticides, injected with antibiotics, ripened with chemicals, dosed with artificial flavorings, and otherwise tortured.
These two interests began to find each other and to create an alternative way of thinking about food. Today, more than 8,000 organic farmers produce everything form wheat to meat, and organic sales top $20 billion a year. Some 4,000 vibrant farmers markets operate in practically every city and town across the land, linking farmers and food makers directly to consumers in a local, supportive economy. Restaurants, supermarkets, food wholesalers, and school districts are now buying foodstuffs that are produced sustainably and locally.
No one in a position of power – corporate or governmental – made any of these changes happen. Instead, the movement percolated up from the grassroots, and it has become a groundswell as ordinary people inform themselves, organize locally, and assert their own democratic values over those of the corporate structure.
Family by family, town by town, this movement has changed not only the market, but also the culture of food. That’s a change worthy of our thanks.
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