Friday, May 23, 2014

Buckwheat for dinner? No deal

Why is it whenever someone wants to get people to eat awful-tasting food for political reasons, they always introduce it as delicious?

Local food activist Dan Barber has declared on NPR that the local food movement has failed, but his solutions to save it are Band-Aids on a stab wound.

Barber is saying that local food was supposed to replace industrial agriculture with a massive cottage industry of small-scale productions, which it has failed to do. This is 100 percent true, but I resent his assertion that changing to clumsy local food production would be progress.

He also talks about how the coveted cover crop system of planting things to replenish the soil isn't economical because no one wants to eat buckwheat and barley, so local farmers end up feeding these pricey crops to their animals. Barber concludes that in order for the system to work, humans would have to eat those filler crops as well as the main crops.

This is the precise moment where the wheels fall off the bus. Barber has a fair point that adopting to a local food system would require people make radical sacrifices to their diets, but then he turns around and suggests they actually do so.

Sorry Dan, but it's not going to happen. He must realize this on some level because customers at his restaurant are consistently complaining about the food he now serves them and how it's composition fails to meet their expectations of a meat-based main course.

A caller does chime in at the 16:30 mark and reveal the central flaw in the local food movement - that local food is great for uppity snobs with money to burn, but we need large, efficiency farming techniques to make enough money to feed the world.

Barber's response involves a tall-tale claim that local farms produce more calories in total than modern farming, but most of those calories are in things people don't like to eat. I don't believe that for a second, and once again he wants to play dictator and require people to eat unwanted plants to keep his dream afloat.

The good thing about this interview is that Barber made a strong point - the local food movement can not simply exist as an alternative source for the foods people already like. It is instead a radical, misguided approach that would require its participants make great sacrifices and changes in their diet if they wanted to live its ideals.

Good luck getting people to eat buckwheat, Dan.

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