In 1990 Wendell Berry wrote a powerful essay called The Pleasures of Eating. This essay captured my attention and throughout the years I have read it again, and again. Rereading it thirty years later, I have found the message to be as relevant as ever and particularly apropos of Farmers To You and our mission and relationships. If you haven’t read anything by Wendell Berry, I humbly recommend that you read something as soon as you can get your hands on it!
Wendell Berry’s inspiration for writing The Pleasure of Eating came from the multitude of people inspired to protect farming and rural communities continuously asking him, “what can city people do?” In response, Berry argues in the essay that growing and eating are not so far apart. A point that hits home in his famous line that has since been reiterated by many: “Eating is an agricultural act.”
In Berry’s opinion you can always do something to support and protect farming and rural communities. You can eat. He felt that since eating is fundamentally linked to agriculture, if you are thoughtful about what you eat, you then are an active participant in the food system. For those of us who do not spend our hours focused on food policy it may be freeing to remember to Just eat responsibly.
Farmers To You was created to help people make informed choices about food and to support the kind of agriculture that is healthy and healing to our communities. We believe that your choices and connection to the production and place where your food comes from is not trivial. We know that in the United States most eaters are not aware of where their food comes from, how it is produced and if it is fresh, clean, and or safe.
In 2017 the Washington Post reported that 7% of adults think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows – that’s more than 16 million people! A study commissioned by the USDA in the 90s found that one in five people did not know that hamburgers came from beef. This confusion is because agricultural literacy is considered not critical knowledge for many. It was once believed by the masses that it was not critical to know where food is grown, how it got to the store, and or what was in it. Luckily, however, for those of us focused on food policy now, more than ever there is a heightened interest in food safety and security.
What I like about Wendell Berry’s poetic essay is that he also reminds us of the job of living in tune with the natural world. Once you’ve learned all about the food you eat, it is hard to go back. When you eat consciously and conscientiously you appreciate the taste and quality of the food and what it took to get to you. It is this state of mind that Berry is trying to guide us towards with his essay.
For anyone who feels ill-suited by disposition, skill, or time available to spend days farming or gardening, you can still make the connection between land, people, food, and the environment by purchasing and eating food from family farms.
A defining characteristic of the small, family farm is that it is at a scale that allows the farmer to grow food, think about their environment and about the people who purchase and eat the food they grow. When you purchase from a family farm you are eating the same food from the same harvest that the farmers themselves eat.
In closing let me share another quote from Wendell Berry because I so enjoy imparting his wisdom.
“A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes.”
Thank you for taking pleasure in eating and for purchasing from small family farms.