You know the line, don’t you?

I really didn’t mean to do it.  I meant to have a nice afternoon with my folks, watch last week’s American Idol that they saved for me (seriously, America?  You tried to give Casey the ax?  Seriously…) and generally have a nice time together.  But at some point the inevitable happened: food was somehow discussed in the course of the day, and it wasn’t long before I was off on a lecture to whoever would listen about this country’s food system and how tragically broken it is, and how imperative it is that each of us take our personal food system into our own hands.  Go independent.  Rip back the veil on what we take into our homes and bodies, and become savvy.  Because trusting that our government has our best interests at heart, that our food supply is safe, that there will always be enough, that following the USDA food pyramid will keep us healthy – well, that ship never did sail, friends.  We’ve been sinking but we didn’t know it because the windows were painted over with scenes of pastoral farmland and happy cows.

I really don’t mean to get negative on this blog – I try to keep my own perspective positive, and to look at what we can do to make healthy choices for ourselves.  There’s real joy for me in taking my personal food system back, learning how to be more self-sufficient, and honoring my personal responsibility in creating choices that help me live the life I want to live.

But every once in a while I believe it’s good and healthy to get mad.  To remember why I feel so urgent about learning and sharing this journey toward self-sufficiency.  It’s easy to get lulled back into the sense that this is a hobby that I enjoy…and why is it so important to me again?

So in the course of our increasingly impassioned conversation about the food system, I mentioned that the incredibly powerful documentary Food, Inc. is now available for instant viewing on Netflix, and why don’t we watch it right now?  The stars aligned, and my parents agreed to watch it right then and there.

We did.  We watched.  My mom gasped a lot.  My dad clucked his tongue once in a while.  And I got mad.  Really, really furious.  Furious for the thousands of family farmers being bullied and intimidated into giving up their independence.  Furious for the seed cleaner who was put out of business for “inducing” farmers to break the law simply by owning a machine that can separate seeds from soil.  Livid for the hundreds of thousands of people struggling to make ends meet, who can’t afford a stalk of broccoli and so choose the cheaper 2-liter of soda instead.  And livid for the health insurance premiums that continue to skyrocket, the public health crisis that is causing our country to be divided by talk of how to handle it as a nation.

I got particularly angry at the brand of capitalism that is allowed to flourish in this country – one that is based on the bottom line at all costs, with no sense of moral or ethical responsibility to our people, our nation, our earth.

In my anger I found renewed inspiration, stoked by the passion and mirror-wielding of people like Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and Joel Salatin who refuse to let the food industry pull the veil down all the way.  They keep peeking under the corners, pulling back the curtain between us and our food.  I remembered, in a surge of frustration and outrage, the why behind what I do in my kitchen, at my farmer’s market, and at the small, independent farms and grocery stores where I make damn sure my food budget goes.

It’s okay to get mad, friends.  In fact, I think it’s imperative.  And we mustn’t get mired down in hopelessness and grief about what’s happened in the last fifty years; we have to reach past that into action, into inspiration and a daily commitment to keeping our choices alive.  We must remember what Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, shared: that our dollars are our most potent voice as American citizens.  Every time we spend money, we vote.  Wal-Mart carries organic products now because its consumers voted for organic by buying organic products. Wal-Mart no longer carries any milk produced with rBST because its costumers told them it was important.  How?  By buying rBST-free milk.  And because its customers voted, rBST-free milk is now available at a lower cost to a wider population of Americans who don’t think they can afford real food.

How’s that for power in the marketplace?  What better inspiration than to remember that we cannot rely on our food system to take care of us, and that we can and must rely on our own personal responsibility and choice-making to turn things around.  Here are three things you can do right now to make a difference:

1. Become educated. Watch Food, Inc. or The Future of Food.  Read Real Food: What to Eat and Why, or The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Better yet, get yourself a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and get your kid a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma for Kids.  Read them together.  Just take a little time to understand the situation we’re in, and what we can do to change it.

2. Make one small change. Buy the veggies for Sunday dinner at your local farmer’s market.  See if your community has a local food co-operative.  Stop shopping the middle of your supermarket and stick to the perimeter, where the fresh, unprocessed, whole food is stocked.

3. Vote with your dollars. Yes, de-centralizing your food system will cost a little more – and it won’t.  You wouldn’t believe how much of our taxpayer money goes toward subsidizing the overproduction of useless cash crops in this country.  Your cheap food comes at a price.  But remember, your dollars are votes, and the way you spend can turn things around.  So put a little more toward your food budget, and spend your money in ways that reflect your values by buying local, and getting to know your farmer and rancher.  If you like to tithe or give charitable contributions, consider making a contribution to the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a completely essential non-profit whose only function is to support family farmers in paying their legal bills against bullying corporate giants that want to kill the backbone of a healthy food system: the small-scale family farm.

And above all, remember: you can – and do – make a difference!


A couple of quick reminders:

Today is the last day to sign up for Ann Marie Michaels’ ground-breaking online class, Reversing Food Allergies, at the reduced price of $149.  If you suffer from food sensitivities and would like to be free, this class might change your life!  I’m banking on it to change mine.  Class starts April 6th and I am excited!

My giveaway continues until Sunday, April 3rd.  If you haven’t taken my survey yet, please do, and make sure you leave a comment after doing so, so I can enter you in the drawing to win a copy of Nina Planck’s excellent book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why.  Thanks in advance!