Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Are you a conscious eater?

I'm reporting back from last Friday's event (better late than never) at the PS1 Urban Farm exhibit where Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, spoke about the current state of our food system in the U.S. If you've read any of Pollan's 5 books or long list of newspaper and magazine articles, you know this guy isn't messing around. Pollan writes and speaks about agriculture, the environment, farming and food systems -- all from "the plant's" perspective -- and all to raise our consciousness around what we're eating. His subtitle of his latest book that quickly has become a mantra in many circles: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Pretty powerful words when you take a moment to think about it. Pollan's speech last Friday focused on discussing the power of the plant's point of view and why it can play an important in solving some of our environmental issues.

Aside from the insanely hot room where the lecture was held (we're talking hotter than Bikram yoga on an August evening), Pollan's speech hit home with the audience. He referenced the value of sustainable agriculture, moving away from genetic engineering and "factory farms" that view animals as merely machines (scary to think that's what ends up on your plate)...and moving towards bringing farming back to small, local farmers -- who with a little ingenuity, actually have the capability of feeding a whole lot of people. In basic terms, think ecosystem v. factory. Personally, I'd much rather live in an ecosystem than wonder if I'm actually eating "chicken" and if so, wondering where it came from -- a farm with grass, space and room to walk, or a huge coop where chickens and other animals are packed in like sardines.
How exactly do we achieve the return to an ecosystem -- that's still to be determined (Pollan is indeed working on some pretty significant ideas though, keep your eyes peeled on the New York Times magazine over the next few months).
I'll sign-off with my favorite quote of the evening: "There are ways to get what we need and leave nature in better shape than when we found it."
Yes, it's somewhat of a broad quote, but you can certainly start small and take baby steps to make a difference. For me, that means purchasing the majority of my fruits, vegetables, eggs and poultry at my local farmer's market. I have a better understanding of where my food is coming from and how it was raised or produced. If a greenmarket isn't an option for you, you could simply start by looking for 'locally-grown' items at your neighborhood grocery store.
So my question to you all is, what would you want to change about the way you eat -- how would you "vote with your fork"?

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