In Our Summer 2014 Issue
There's no better way to bring silence to a room full of Edible editors and publishers from all across the U.S. and Canada than to tell them farm-to-table is getting it all wrong. That's what happened when Dan Barber of Stone Barns, chef and author of the new book The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, spoke at our recent Edible confab in New York City in mid-May.
Just imagine: There we all were, the first morning of our annual gathering, glad to be together to learn and share, like puppies eager to seek validation for our efforts from one of the leading voices of the sustainable foods movement . . . and pow! Barber jolted us back to reality with one concise line.
In many ways it was inspiring. OK, it was actually a little painful too . . . but you can't say we didn't see it coming, just maybe not at that moment.
Barber went on to point out that the food movement has had tremendous successes. However, he stressed, as much as we are making progress, we've failed to recognize the bigger picture.
Big ag is still getting bigger, small and mid-sized farms are still dwindling and while those local tomatoes and zucchini sure taste good, what about the rotation crops needed to get those darlings to our table? Are we willing to eat those too? Barber wants us to be thinking about the entire growth cycle and the manner in which we support the farming community at large, not just cherry picking what looks good. In other words, heirloom tomatoes aren't the endgame.
It may be a little far-reaching to think in those terms for a people who are supposedly finding less time to cook and more time (and money) to eat crap. New York Times op-ed columnist Mark Bittman, always happy to punctuate with some good expletives, kept us laughing and likewise unsettled as he discussed the environmental, socio-economic and health consequences of our current food system that still revolves around sugars (among other evils). He reminded us once again that, "By relinquishing control over our food, we don't know what's in it – it's cooking that puts us in the driver's seat."
Was I ultimately deflated by all this talk? No, I returned home more buoyed than ever. (It didn't hurt that I spent several days with my Edible cohorts listening to accomplished editors, authors and other food movement leaders, and that Edible Rhody received five editorial award nominations – best cover, best historical piece, best letter from the editor and two for best last page!)
To effect the food system transformations that these guys are talking about, we need to be stronger advocates, right from our own kitchens. Cook good food, grown nearby with care, and together we will continue to learn what it really takes to put a good meal on the table, one that sets us on the course for a more edible and sustainable future.
Genie McPherson Trevor