In a recent NY Post editorial, Carla Spartos dares the locavore movement to meet her at the middle school flag pole by lashing Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Tom Colicchio for being "gourmonsters" hell bent on a bourgeoisie crusade to tell America what to eat, and how to eat it.Carla Spartos' editorial in the NY Post likens influential slow foodies Alice Waters and Michael Pollan to a "an exclusive clique of anorexic cheerleaders, [who] think they're better than you." The frenetic tirade reads like a adolescent rant by a tween who doesn't understand why she just didn't get her way. In serious times, the opinion piece plays a populist cord by casually invoking the current recession as a reason to paint the Slow Food Movement as just another way in which the snobby elite chastise the masses. The editorial is angst ridden and accusitory, but where's the beef?
A False Characterization of the Slow Food Movement
The essence of the Slow Food movement is a commitment to community. As hard as nay-sayers work to convince the public that it's about white linen napkins, small portions, and snooty maitre d's, that was never the purpose. Rather, it's a commitment to our nation's hard working local food producers. These are the farmers who work tirelessly to bring the freshest, most delicious food to America's dinner tables without overloading their harvest with chemicals and pesticides. To infer that only the wealthy want, or deserve, chemical free foods is curious at best and "out of touch" at worst.
The Slow Food Movement is about paying fair wages to local workers who produce the foods with which we feed our families. Faulting those who champion a movement to promote working hard to produce a great product for fair wages as being the bourgeoisie "food police" seems, well, strange. Those who have a vested interest in promoting large scale automated production of dollar menu items seem closer to telling the masses what to eat, and how to eat it.
Condemning Our Nation's Small Businesses
Spartos' editorial is truly disheartening because it perpetuates the tired stereotype that anyone who is willing to pay a little more for a grape simply can't understand these difficult economic times from their ivory tower. Such assertions are a condemnation of small businesses. The fact of the matter is that five crops -- cotton, corn, wheat, rice and soybeans -- received 92 percent of the $21 billion in federal farm subsidy payments in 2007. The payments are disproportionately distributed to the biggest farms. That means that America's small time farmers, the small businesses that our nation should be supporting, are being shut out by large corporate agribusiness using your tax dollars. According to the NY Times, American farming is becoming a story of extremes, really big farms and really small ones. According to the Times, about 900,000 of the nation's 2.2 million farms generated $2,500 or less in sales in 2007 while 5 percent of the total number of farms, about 125,000 operations, accounted for 75 percent of America's agricultural production. These factory farms are making it nearly impossible for our nation's small time farmers to survive. And with that our ability to choose the products that we want to buy goes out the window. Instead, we must eat whatever the largest farms decide to produce. That doesn't benefit us, but cornering the market means big bucks for factory farms.
That doesn't even begin to address the costs borne by Americans to whom large agribusiness shifts its externalities, including the enormous amount of pollution generated by many of these factory farms. Just one giant factory farms can put out 15,500 pounds per day, that's just makes my stomach turn.