What Irv Gets Right

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May 30, 2014 at 9:44 am

The other day an email arrived.  Local food friend and Local Beet sponsor, Shelly Herman one half of the renown locavore team of Irv and Shelly’s Freshpicks, wanted me to know about a letter Irv sent to the New York Times.  It was in response to an article chef Dan Barber wrote a week earlier on “what farm-to-table got wrong.”

Irv writes, “Hectoring people to eat their cowpeas to save farmers is not a winning recipe to gain market share in the face of this marketing juggernaut.”  See, the bulk of Barber’s article is not so much what farm-to-table got wrong, but what one farmer pair did exceedingly right. Barber’s prescription seemed to be more genuflection at people like Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens, who grew that rare version of wheat, emmer, in upstate New York.  Barber notes that farmers like them, ”the best farmers” “are tying up valuable real estate for long periods of time (in an agonizingly short growing season) simply to benefit their soil.”  Our problem was to “honor the other underutilized parts of his rotations — classic cover crops like cowpeas and mustard, which fertilize the soil to ensure healthy harvests in the future.”  Irv notes that we need agricultural sustainability, but delayed hold it is taking local eating comes from bigger problems.

Irv rightly points why local food has barely made a dent in a giant industry dominated by wealthy corporations

Armies of lobbyists shore up the subsidies that almost exclusively benefit huge corn and soybean operations, and billion-dollar advertising budgets reinforce our addiction to the highly processed foods they produce.

He (or I) could go on at length providing examples of the Big Ag pushback from Twitter #agchats; to rancher associations to the crazed studies in favor of the 10,000 mile diet. If you did not think it mattered to them, you would not expect their basic argument to boil down to this: if we do not farm the Monsanto way, we will all starve. Really, that’s what it comes down to.

To Irv, the problem stems from a horribly one-sided battle. We are way out-gunned in the battle for the shopping cart. Still, for all the lobbyists and subsidies they have, we have a few weapons on our side. Not the least is taste and health. In fact, our chipstack stands up pretty well in this game. The problem, too often, we play the wrong game. The game Barber wants us to play. The farm game.

Nearly all the arguments over the lack of local eating remain supply side. Remain focused on the providers. We need more providers. Or we need better distribution systems for the providers. No. We have to fight for demand. That’s where the battle is. Irv and Shelly put fourth a wide array of local food each week to select. They have enough products to sell. Methinks they’d love to have more people to buy.

They’d also love to hear from you. Irv and Shelly are inviting you their Facebook page to offer you own opinions on the limitations of local food.

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One Comment

  1. Robert Haugland says:

    Supply will follow demand. If there is enough demand then there will be that many more people getting into farming. There will also be more production from current farmers to meet the demand.

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