Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Perspectives...

Steve here, builder of coops and faithful assistant on this project. I had a chance tonight to do something I don't normally do - attend a community government event. In this case it was the meeting of the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Commissioners Board. It just so happens that, among their many other duties involving parks, playgrounds and community centers in our fair city, they oversee the operation of the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market down there at 501 Yanceyville Street. It's the one closest to our house, and the one we most frequently, ah, frequent.

There's currently some controversy brewing at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market and it revolves around rules, specifically the one that states that the vendors there are supposed to actually be local. By that they mean that the food sold there (and the crafts too) should be produced locally. I'm not sure about the distances involved in defining "local" here as I don't know the rule by heart or anything, but it seems that a very tiny proportion of the 60+ vendors at the market sometimes breaks those rules, bringing in and selling non-local products that they mostly assuredly have not produced themselves and that definitely have not been produced locally. In the grand scheme of things it's probably a fairly small problem, but I got to see local farmers in action defending something they believe is important - locally produced foods - and also the political process in action. In the end, I don't know that the controversy was entirely put to rest, but in the process good, well-intentioned people said a lot of good things about the market, the community it creates and supports, and how it is considered an important "treasure" (yes, that was the word used) of this city. The dedication present impressed me and, along with many other arguments for it, reinforced my belief in the local food movement.

Juxtaposed with that was Anne-Marie's recent battle over an article for the American Dietetic Association (ADA) which appeared at first to be a simple 400 word assignment discussing the Hot Topic of organic foods. I won't go into the details of that two and a half month ordeal, but suffice it to say that not everyone at the ADA was on the same page regarding the subject of organic foods. And this controversy was national in scope.

Between these two issues it has became quite apparent to me that there are forces out there who, on both a small scale and a large one, don't really want to see a move to locally produced foods succeed. In fact, some of those people will go to considerable lengths to oppose it, not just fudging on farmers market rules. It also seems, however, that those who most fiercely oppose this movement almost universally have a financial stake in maintaining the status quo of processed, engineered and long-distance shipped foodstuffs. No matter where you might sit on this issue, I think that's something to keep in mind. I'm no "Socialist", not by a long shot, but when it comes to what's good for me, my family, my country, and, yes I'll say it, the planet, it's not dollars and cents that makes the most difference. It's pursuing the path I feel will truly benefit the most people. By supporting our local farmers, we are not just keeping them in business and ensuring a local food supply. We are also making it possible for others who wish to pursue this path to succeed. (Sound of me stepping down off my soapbox).

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