We got to talking. Over cutting salad mix, about families and efficiency. Over sorting carrots, about Sloppy Joe's and imperfect produce. We got to talking about all kinds of things on our feed walk in the afternoon: timing of flame weeding, pruning and grafting tomatoes, the farm's weed "seed bank." I often have trouble fully listening and conversing when I'm working with my hands-- I tend to focus on the carrots. Over bunching cilantro way out in the corner of the farm, though, one conversation pulled me deep in.
"What do you think is the biggest thing that needs to change?" Phil asks.
I look up, away from my handful of cilantro, and stop moving for a few seconds. We were talking about the Food Studies program at UO, my travels in Ecuador and Masters program with Food in Culture and Social Justice. What value there is in studying all these issues from a broad perspective. And then this question. How does change begin?
I'm surprised by how quickly I know my answer: universal health care, first. As long as there's a profit-driven industry behind people being sick, cultivating whole health is a pipe dream. And close on its heels: dismantling the political power of money, second. As long as politicians are unequally influenced by interests that already control the bulk of wealth in this country, "good food for all" will continue to be out of reach.
The rest is dizzying. Land use laws, cultural food practices, advertising, health education, employment and wages, farm subsidies, market opportunities, school lunches.... Questions of food justice and sustainable food systems reach into every last cranny of our society, and there are few clear answers about how to move forward. I wonder, does anyone have a comprehensive vision of how we might transform these interwoven systems to make healthy food accessible and normalized? I have my sights on so many first steps, so many loose ends that could be tied up better, but I have a foggier idea of where those strings lead in the future.
I was pleasantly surprised, out there in the cilantro bed, at how fully my attention dove into a conversation like that. It matters, and I've thought about it a lot. And it reminded me that I want to be thinking about it more, asking others their ideas, brainstorming and wondering with this community of thoughtful, motivated people at how to make this world a little better.