Green Around The Hills: Slow Food aims to put brakes on agribusiness

8:51 am | November 26, 2012

By Jennie Young

I love Thanksgiving. It’s too good for just once a year, and a midsummer reenactment is not unlikely.

Our Thanksgiving potlucks with friends were a fascinating mix of traditional and inventive. Mashed sweet potatoes spread thinly with pesto, sprinkled with shredded cheddar, then under the broiler for a bit, is now a favorite which first showed up with a Middle Eastern friend. My introduction to Huntsman cheese, layered sharp English cheddar and Stilton, came with Kate the Brit. I haven’t tried making the surprisingly delicious dessert tamales from the Mexican family who lived next door but I will.

I love cooking and gardening. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a small farm near Erwin. I’ve never felt insecure about food. Even when money was short, the basement storage shelves and bins were stocked. Even with a seasonal feast on my mind, it’s a good time to focus on a grim reality. I eat well but far too many cannot.

Frequently emails from the Slow Food Movement arrive in my inbox. I first learned of Slow Foods when I heard an interview with Vandana Shiva who confronts the adverse results of agribusiness practices in India. In short, agri-giants finagled political deals by which small farmers give up farming rights to their land so Monsanto can grow flowers and broccoli and shrimp in manufactured ponds for the global market. In exchange, India’s main food supplies would be imported. Without small farmers growing foods, traditional Indian fare was disappearing and the populace was finding the imports steadily more expensive.

Haiti knows about such political finagling. I’m so proud of Bill Clinton for publicly coming to terms with what he calls his administration’s “deal with the devil.” Haiti was forced to accept subsidized U.S. rice. It was cheaper than domestically grown rice, but only at first. Haiti’s rice farming economy was destroyed. Hunger followed.

The Slow Food Movement is to some degree a response to the sometimes negative role agribusiness plays in global food policies. It’s also a response to the impact of the fast food culture. But it’s primarily about taking time to enjoy good food raised in clean, safe conditions and sold at fair prices for the growers. Clean, safe and fair, a good motto.

It encourages markets for traditional foods that are disappearing. Agribusiness focuses on what is hardy, easy to grow and easy to ship, but think about this. After decades of industrialized food policies just 30 plants feed 95 percent of the world’s 7 billion people. Slow Foods encourages a global effort to broaden diversity. It’s about taking time to know the foods we eat are healthy — for us, for those who grow it, for the land. Slow Foods encourages local growers and local markets and exposing new foods to children. Hundreds of thousands of members in 50 countries get the word out and hold events that teach and share the rewards of seeking food for taste and variety and slowing down to savor it. It’s good to think on

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