Across the Caribbean, food imports have become a budget-busting problem, prompting one of the world’s most fertile regions to reclaim its agricultural past. But instead of turning to big agribusinesses, officials are recruiting everyone they can to combat the cost of imports, which have roughly doubled in price over the past decade. In Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas and elsewhere, local farm-to-table production is not a restaurant sales pitch; it is a government motto.
“We’re in a food crisis,” said Hilson Baptiste, the agriculture minister of Antigua and Barbuda. “Every country is concerned about it. How can we produce our own? How can we feed our own?”
In a region where farming is still often seen as a reminder of plantations and slavery, the challenge runs deep, yet at regional meetings for years, Caribbean officials have emphasized that “food security,” primarily availability and access, is a top priority. Many countries are now responding, branding foreign food like meats and high-calorie snacks a threat, and locally grown food responsible and smart.
Faison last month launched Milton’s Local Harvest, a Hopewell startup that seeks to connect meat-raising farmers in Central Virginia with restaurants and grocery stores in Richmond.
The company focuses on shepherding hormone-, antibiotic- and steroid-free meat and works with about eight farmers providing pasture-raised beef and pork. Its first local clients are Ellwood Thompson’s, Saison in Jackson Ward and Kitchen on Cary in Shockoe Slip. Milton’s Local Harvest makes its cut off the mark-up between farm and table.
Why is it racist to say what food is healthy and what food isn’t? For one, this presupposes that the food from one culture is more ‘nutritious’ than that of another. Two clear examples: Canada’s Food Guide and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Pyramid. In both, dairy is seen as cornerstone food group, despite findings that in the U.S., 70 per cent of African Americans, 74 per cent of Indigenous Americans, 90 per cent of Asian Americans, and 53 per cent of Mexican Americans are lactose intolerant. On the flip side, high-calcium foods traditional to some of these cultures (for example, collard greens) are not included. Food racism happens when certain foods are excluded in favour of the dominant (white) culture’s idea of good food.
Secondly, health itself is racialized. As Pringle says, it involves “saying that a certain type of body is better than other types of bodies.”
Ideas of health often presume a certain type of body. This doesn’t take into account how other cultures see health, nor does it acknowledge that the dominant idea of a ‘healthy body’ in North American media is most often thin and white. Healthy bodies shouldn’t be defined by what they look like.
Besides being ineffective at causing the sorts of changes necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet, there are at least four other problems with perceiving simple living as a political act (as opposed to living simply because that’s what you want to do). The first is that it’s predicated on the flawed notion that humans inevitably harm their landbase. Simple living as a political act consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring the fact that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. We can rehabilitate streams, we can get rid of noxious invasives, we can remove dams, we can disrupt a political system tilted toward the rich as well as an extractive economic system, we can destroy the industrial economy that is destroying the real, physical world.
The second problem—and this is another big one—is that it incorrectly assigns blame to the individual (and most especially to individuals who are particularly powerless) instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself. Kirkpatrick Sale again: “The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.”
The third problem is that it accepts capitalism’s redefinition of us from citizens to consumers. By accepting this redefinition, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming. Citizens have a much wider range of available resistance tactics, including voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organizing, lobbying, protesting, and, when a government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the right to alter or abolish it.
The fourth problem is that the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide. If every act within an industrial economy is destructive, and if we want to stop this destruction, and if we are unwilling (or unable) to question (much less destroy) the intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive, then we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead.
Could you talk about what you write are unfair representations of meat, going back to “The Jungle” up to Michael Pollan today. What do they get wrong about the meat industry, or seem to be missing from the historical context?
I think what the food reformers – and I need to make it clear, I have a great deal of sympathy with their goals — don’t understand is that the system of providing food is predicated on the fact that the vast majority of Americans don’t make food. They expect someone else to raise it for them. And in the United States, if you live in a city, you absolutely expect there to be lots and lots of food at a reasonable price. For the past century that’s in fact what has driven our economy: the ability to free up spending dollars.
I think food reformers don’t get that the reason they have the luxury of sitting around tapping out critiques on their Apple computers is because they a) don’t have to grow their own food and b) don’t have to spend very much money for the food that they do have.
Companies want to make a profit — only an idiot would [disagree]. And these meat companies, for example, tend to be publicly held, so the share value is being distributed throughout the national economy to individual Americans. But what drives the structure and cost performance of a big meat company had been, for decades and decades, the need to come up with a product that Americans deem acceptable in price, and that is not easy to do.
I’ll use the example of a steer. If you look at a steer, the bulk of the steer is not edible. So the packer has to figure out how to extract the edible part, but then use all the rest of the parts to subsidize the low cost of those edible parts, and that is an incredible balancing act that packers have pulled off over and over again. There is virtually no profit to be made from a carcass of a steer, in terms of the meat that you sell. By the time you pay for the animal, you move the animal, you slaughter the animal, you process the animal, you package the meat, you send the meat — there is no profit in there. So the way you get profit is by organizing your operation to use all the rest of the animal in some way that will yield profit.
Human nature and human progress are polymathic at root. And life itself is various — you need many skills to be able to live it. In traditional cultures, everyone can do a little of everything. Though one man might be the best hunter or archer or trapper, he doesn’t do only that.
Being in one of the centers of food justice work has been exciting but as someone who has also been involved in body acceptance movement, I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with the frame of obesity prevention as a justification some use to enter this great work. Many groups doing this work have to apply for funding (such as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move) that frames food access as obesity prevention. Researcher Linda Bacon coined the term “Health at Every Size” to challenge ideas that weight loss is desirable for everyone and I wanted to think further about the impact of the framework of obesity prevention of food justice and communities of color. That’s when I read Sonya Renee’s post Weight Stigma in Diverse Populations.
continue reading at Beyond Obesity: Reframing Food Justice with Body Love « Oakland Local.
Foreign investors held an interest in 25.7 million acres of U.S. agricultural land forest land and farmland as of December 31, 2011.
This is an increase of 1,490,781 acres from the December 31, 2010 report, and represents 2.0 percent of all privately held agricultural land in the United States.
Forest land accounted for 54 percent of all foreign held agricultural acreage, cropland for 19 percent, and pasture and other agricultural land for 27 percent.
Foreign persons have reported acreage holdings in all 50 States and Puerto Rico.The state of Texas has the largest amount of foreign held U.S. agricultural land with 2,894,563 acres. This figure represents only 1.9 percent of privately owned agricultural land in Texas.
Maine has the second largest amount of foreign held agricultural acres with 2,877,965 and Washington has the third largest amount of foreign held agricultural land with 1,671,102 acres, which is 7.6 percent of its privately held agricultural land.16 percent of Maine’s of Maine’s privately held agricultural land is held by foreign investors; this is approximately 11 percent of the reported foreign held agricultural land in the United States.
Hawaii has the second largest percentage of foreign held U.S. agricultural land, 158,887 acres, which is 8.8 percent of the privately held agricultural land in the state. Washington, Alabama and Florida follow.Kansas, Washington and Wisconsin showed the biggest increases in foreign-held agricultural acres in 2011. The increases were primarily due to the execution of long-term leasehold interests by wind energy companies.