Reinventing Iowa: The way we eat
Every meal we eat is a vote. What are you voting for, a big commercial farming operation or local vegetables and livestock?
Thursday, August 5, 2010 - 12:44
Photo: David Morris/Flickr
Iowa is full of corn; everyone knows that. But ask the average American and they don't really know what that corn is for. They often make the assumption it's the corn they buy by the ear or can at the supermarket. Seemingly, there are many Iowans that do not understand the process of corn production. I've witnessed individuals walk into a corn field, grab an ear, and take a bite.
Sounds delicious, right? Well, it's not. It's feed corn, it's starch, and Iowa's full of it. It, in some boiled down and manipulated form, is what you find in nearly every bite delivered to you by your national chain grocery store. And if it's not actually in the food you're eating, it was most certainly used to feed the animals that produced the meat that you're eating or the milk that you're drinking.
This is the primary reason I'd like to reinvent Iowa. I intend no offense to my fellow Iowans, but we've lost our way. We've had our morals sacrificed for us through years of federal legislation, commercial seed companies, and the food industry. It was orchestrated by men and women in suits and it's been paid for by Americans in overalls and dirty boots. Farmers take no pride in accepting government subsidies, but it's become the way of the industry. Without these subsidies, the farmer cannot survive, and with them, the farmer sits at a kitchen table and balances his checkbook to the kernel.
The word is spreading. There have been many successful attempts at ousting the neglect of the corn industry. As a native Iowan, I do not support the mass production of corn or soy beans that leaves the average American farmer living at the bottom of the food chain. But, I do support the average American farmer.
Back in Denver, where I live, I frequent Sustainability Series meetings held monthly at the Wynkoop Brewery. The first Tuesday of each month delivers a different panel discussion on local practices, policies, foresights and the like, in sustainability. These meetings serve as a great outlet to expand interests in a sustainable lifestyle.
Recently, a panel discussed urban agriculture. One of the frequently touched upon facets of the discussion was the potential for a small business to succeed with a small farming operation to feed a neighborhood in the city. Throughout the entire discussion, my mind translated the efforts to Iowa's small communities.
The first step in reinventing Iowa is simple. Farmers must grow food that people can eat. It sounds absurd, but it's the truth. It's hard to believe that we've gotten to a place where farmers grow food that people can't immediately eat, but we have. It's embarrassing. Iowa is small town America. It's a state full of communities. Every one of these communities could benefit from a local farm producing quality food.
It doesn't take a green thumb to know that a bell pepper grown down the road is better than a bell pepper that has spent its life in a refrigerated semi trailer or that grass-fed cattle from Farmer Johnson's lot produce better meat than grain-fed cattle from a commercial lot in western Nebraska.
This article isn't going to save Iowa or the way we eat nationally. It's going to take a well thought out plan of action. It's going to take time. It starts with our food purchases. Every day we cast a vote for local food or commercially processed food with the food we purchase. No matter where you live, make sure you cast the right vote. It will make the difference we need. Buy local food. Eat in season. Read nutrition labels. Read ingredients. It starts with us.
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