Go wild

Emmet Gowin, Drainage Ditches in a Low Agricultural Field, Savannah River Nuclear Site, SC, 1992,

Corporate Monoculture is the demon engine of civilization.
That idea is based on the John Zerzan essay AGRICULTURE: DEMON ENGINE OF CIVILIZATION From Adam Parfreys excellent Anthology APOCALYPSE CULTURE.Here is an interview clip of Michael Pollan debating with Hugh Grant, the CEO of what I consider the most evil corporation on the planet: Monsanto. Michael Pollans’s argument is brilliant!

Paul Cezanne, Still Life 1883-87
Monoculture, the primary philosophy of agribusiness giants like Monsanto, offers a grim future for life on earth with it’s goals of seed control, profit driven high yields of genetically engineered clone crops, industrial food use, and chemical enhancement. There is overwhelming evidence that Monoculture is depleting the soil and the chemical runoff destroying life in the rivers and oceans. We now have over 150 large dead zones in the sea where no life can no longer exist because of low oxygen and high algae levels. Their hold on American Agriculture began in the 1970’s and really gained prominence during the policies of the Reagan/Bush Era.
By 2000 their corporate stranglehold was worldwide, but a counter movement has been building from the grass roots level and has been gaining momentum ever since…. Slow food. While not a solution to long term global food shortages, it provides a small scale approach for some, today.The slow food movement, is a reaction to the overwhelming shift in the last 25 years toward fast food and food products over traditional whole foods. The slow food movement has lead to many other off-shoot movements aimed at reestablishing sustainable farming practices, more humane treatment of animals, and well being and rights of workers.
Wikipedia describes the Slow Food movement as founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy to combat fast food.
“It claims to preserve the cultural cuisine and the associated food plants and seeds, domestic animals, and farming within an ecoregion. It was the first established part of the broader Slow movement– which is a is a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace.
The Slow Food movement incorporates a series of objectives within its mission, including:

  • forming and sustaining seed banks to preserve heirloom varieties in cooperation with local food systems
  • developing an “Ark of Taste” for each ecoregion, where local culinary traditions and foods are celebrated
  • preserving and promoting local and traditional food products, along with their lore and preparation
  • organizing small-scale processing (including facilities for slaughtering and short run products)
  • organizing celebrations of local cuisine within regions (for example, the Feast of Fields held in some cities in Canada)
  • promoting “taste education”
  • educating consumers about the risks of fast food
  • educating citizens about the drawbacks of commercial agribusiness and factory farms
  • educating citizens about the risks of monoculture and reliance on too few genomes or varieties
  • developing various political programs to preserve family farms
  • lobbying for the inclusion of organic farming concerns within agricultural policy
  • lobbying against government funding of genetic engineering
  • lobbying against the use of pesticides
  • teaching gardening skills to students and prisoners
  • encouraging ethical buying in local marketplaces
Jan Davidsz. Heem,Festoon of Fruit and Flowers c. 1635-84

I first learned about the slow food movement in the Utne Reader in the early 90s, but it wasn’t until I read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and later Michael Pollan’s superb The Omnivore’s Dilemma that I really began to aggressively change the way I thought about and shopped for food. I was particularly struck by the philosophy of William Salatin and his Polyface farm.
Polyface farms, featured prominently in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a leader in the sustainable farming movement. Owned and operated by William Salatin and his family. Salatin has been a tireless advocate of sustainable foods and farming practices. His common sense philosophy, mostly recovered from intense research and his own experience on the farm has been an inspiration to a new generation of farmers.

His philosophy according to his website:
“TRANSPARENCY: Anyone is welcome to visit the farm anytime. No trade secrets, no locked doors, every corner is camera-accessible.

GRASS-BASED: Pastured livestock and poultry, moved frequently to new “salad bars,” offer landscape healing and nutritional superiority.

INDIVIDUALITY: Plants and animals should be provided a habitat that allows them to express their physiological distinctiveness. Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health.

COMMUNITY: We do not ship food. We should all seek food closer to home, in our foodshed, our own bioregion. This means enjoying seasonality and reacquainting ourselves with our home kitchens.

NATURE’S TEMPLATE: Mimicking natural patterns on a commercial domestic scale insures moral and ethical boundaries to human cleverness. Cows are herbivores, not omnivores; that is why we’ve never fed them dead cows like the United States Department of Agriculture encouraged (the alleged cause of mad cows).

EARTHWORMS: We’re really in the earthworm enhancement business. Stimulating soil biota is our first priority. Soil health creates healthy food.”

All of this made me think of Henry David Thoreau and his best known book Walden. Which I have never read but am now very curious about.

Photo of the location of Thoreau's cabin

Photo of the location of Thoreau’s cabin

I grew up in suburban Virginia. My parents always had a garden and always shared food with neighbors and relatives and received food from them as well. My Mother cooked constantly and when I was young she prepared food much the same way as her Mother did, with ample amounts of animal fat. Needless to say the flavor was incredible. By the early 1980s though, my Grandmother had passed away and my mother had radically changed the way she cooked. Gone were the animal fats, and homemade cookies and time consuming recipes from scratch. Worn down by many things she switched to boxed foods for desserts and snacks, though she still did a fair amount of traditional cooking, and much of the food came for the family garden.
I was oblivious. I wanted fast food and hostess cupcakes and the like, and mostly rejected the whole foods put in front of me. Years later I deeply regretted this, but it’s what kids do, and with all the advertising and branding I was hooked.

By the time I moved to California, I was seriously interested in reversing this trend. Ever since I moved away form home I found that I liked to cook and surprisingly I like to cook from scratch when time allows. Living in a big urban center makes time a constant issue but slowly I have been making my way toward better eating and cooking, using better ingredients. We have a fantastic farmers market in Hollywood too with lots of organic vendors to choose from.

My friend Sandy Masuo is a culinary genius and I have learned so much from her. She prepares food the way my Mother did when I was young, even more so, and the astonishing flavor and quality is impossible to ignore. She is constantly educating me and I find I have a endless appetite for food knowledge.
Food Network and Alton Brown are also favorites.
My goal is to make and share as much food as time allows and to use organic foods and meats, form farms and shops that use sustainable practices.
Sharing good food with friends and loved ones is one of the most enjoyable experiences one can have. Oddly enough, these experiences have given me the strongest sense of “family” I have yet had.

Living in Southern California, It is not easy finding farms using many of these practices, but Pollan’s books did get me started in a big way. After doing some research I did find a wealth of information and resources. Some of my favorites include:

Local Harvest: A complete guide local organic foods and farms all across the country.

Sustainabletable: Offers information on sustainable agriculture involves food production methods that are healthy, do not harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities.

Eat wild Offers comprehensive, accurate information about the benefits of raising animals on pasture, direct links to local farms that supply all-natural, delicious, grass-fed products, A marketplace for farmers who raise their livestock on pasture from birth to market and who actively promote the welfare of their animals and the health of the land.

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