Sunday, September 25, 2011


from Frances Moore Lappe writing in The Nation:

"[T]he global food movement challenges a failing frame: one that defines successful agriculture and the solution to hunger as better technologies increasing yields of specific crops. This is typically called “industrial agriculture,” but a better description might be “productivist,” because it fixates on production, or “reductivist,” because it narrows our focus to a single element.

"This rising global food movement taps universal human sensibilities—expressed in Hindu farmers in India saving seeds, Muslim farmers in Niger turning back the desert and Christian farmers in the United States practicing biblically inspired Creation Care. In these movements lies the revolutionary power of the food movement: its capacity to upend a life-destroying belief system that has brought us power-concentrating corporatism.

"Corporatism, after all, depends on our belief in the fairy tale that market “magic” (Ronald Reagan’s unforgettable term) works on its own without us.

"Food can break that spell. For the food movement’s power is that it can shift our sense of self: from passive, disconnected consumers in a magical market to active, richly connected co-producers in societies we are creating—as share owners in a CSA farm or purchasers of fair-trade products or actors in public life shaping the next farm bill.

"The food movement’s power is connection itself. Corporatism distances us from one another, from the earth—and even from our own bodies, tricking them to crave that which destroys them—while the food movement celebrates our reconnection.

"As the food movement stirs, as well as meets, deep human needs for connection, power and fairness, let’s shed any notion that it’s simply “nice” and seize its true potential to break the spell of our disempowerment."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I have in my hands an advance copy of the book "Food Sovereignty in Canada" put out by Fernwood Publishing.  I am very proud! I would tell you exactly what I did for this book, but then my thin veneer of anonymity would be blown. I will say that I did copy-edit half of it, and did substantive editing for three of the chapters. Please don't tell me about any typos I missed. That was probably the other copy-editor.

The rest of you will have to wait until November to get a copy, but I'm going to whet your appetite:

"The language of food sovereignty was initially introduced by La Via Campesina to express both the truth of power relations within the food domain and the hope for the democratic, widely dispersed, just distribution of those powers over food...In order to transform the dominant forces, including those related to politics, economics, gender, the environment and social organization, we need to be able to imagine and articulate new relationships to food, community and ultimately the earth."

"Instead of the current construct of farmers producing and individual consumers buying food, where both the access to and production of food are determined by the market, food sovereignty begins from the position of citizens engaged in decisions about providing life-sustaining good food."

From the publisher: "Achieving food sovereignty requires conceptual and practical changes, reshaping menus, farming, communities, relationships, values and policy, but, as the authors clearly demonstrate, the urgent work of building food sovereignty in Canada is well under way."

"Advancing Agriculture by Destroying Farms? The State of Agriculture in Canada"
"Indigenous Food Sovereignty: A Model for Social Learning"
"Growing Community: Community Gardens as a Local Practice of Food Sovereignty"
"Community Nutrition Practice and Research: Integrating a Good Sovereignty Approach"
"Transforming Agriculture: Women Farmers Define a Food sovereignty Policy for Canada"
and more!

Friday, September 16, 2011


In honor of Friday, something apolitical - unless you're a breatharian: Kids take good eating seriously.

Gourmand from Eden Balfour on Vimeo.

Plum-eater's mom in 1977. Good genes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wisdom of the elders, CWB edition.

Farmers who were born out of the Depression-era have a long perspective on farming issues. A couple of my interviewees who are in their 70s weighed in on the Canadian Wheat Board. A historical perspective:

"The first generation struggled to get it established. The second generation fully understood why it was so. The third generation got the most benefit out of it. The fourth generation have no idea what the background is and don't make any effort even to try to find out or care or what. And it seems to be something in the human psyche that – are they going to have to learn all over again?"

And a comment on ideology:

"It's true, if we don't have a Wheat Board you get your freedom, but then the other people that support the Wheat Board don't have the freedom of having the benefits of a single desk that works... But the farmers think that they're going to be able to load up their trucks and take it across the border and get the premium price. But when you get down there you're going to find out that all the grain companies up here have got farmers' grain that they bought, they're down there selling too – and often times to mills that grain companies like Cargill up here own, they own the mills down there, so who do you think they're going to get it from? And the only way you can sell it to their mill is if you undersell what they're buying it from from the farmers up here. Why should they pay you more for what they can buy from the stupid farmer who sells it off-Board here? And that's the argument. They say, 'well, yeah, but I want my freedom I guess.'"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tyranny of the Majority

I've changed my mind about the Canadian Wheat Board. I now actively welcome its demise, as the result of an irresistible argument that you may have heard making the rounds. It goes like this:

24.32% of voting-age Canadians voted for the Conservative government and gave it a majority. These voters included Torontonians who couldn't tell a wheatfield from a field of flax and have never heard of the Canadian Wheat Board. Nevertheless, this win obviously gave the government a mandate to repeal the Act of Parliament that gave the CWB its monopsony over prairie wheat and barley. This is a far more democratic way of dealing with the farmer-funded organization and its farmer-elected representatives. In the name of 'marketing freedom', the Conservatives will overturn this tyrannical majority rule and wheat and barley farmers will be able to sell to whichever of the four multinationals that control 80% of the grain trade they choose.

In light of this persuasive argument, I too have chosen to embrace the principles of 'minority rules' and 'freedom of contract'. I hereby announce my choice to disregard the laws of my country, some of which I personally do not benefit from and did not personally approve of. Therefore, as an underrepresented minority, I refute our electoral system whereby the majority controls the political system, and the unfair laws that support that system. My household and I have freely contracted with the government of Norway and are now Norwegians.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tantalizing Quotes from "Decolonizing Food"

Briarpatch Magazine has just put out a food and agriculture issue, "Decolonizing Food". This covers a wide range of food and agriculture issues in Canada, with implications for beyond. Some excerpts:

"As a result of destroyed livelihoods in their countries of origin due to free-trade-facilitated corporate expansion (in which Canadian multinationals are often complicit), thousands of farmers come from Mexico, Guatemala and elsewhere to work in Canada’s SAWP. Canada creates and perpetuates an unjust situation for these farm workers, who are usually poorly paid, given harsh accommodation and denied access to do we make these spaces safe for the most marginalized among us while also building an effective resistance to the systems that create and perpetuate food injustice?" Maryam Adrangi and Laura Lepper, "Food for all! Food justice needs migrant justice"

"Farming, in my experience, is too rich, too complex, too full of pleasure and agony to be learned from a distance. You need to wade ankle deep into mud, gorge on warm berries, toss bales until your fingers bleed. Farming as an art is interconnected and complex and requires a method of instruction that reflects this essence." - Anna Kirkpatrick, "Learning to grow: The proliferation of hands-on educational opportunities for wannabe farmers"

"The need for commercial, artificial human milk has been manufactured through the same intentional degradation of community that has manufactured doubt in our ability to produce milk from our breasts or food for our tables. It is not at all surprising that the years that saw dramatic decreases in breastfeeding are the same years that we gave up more and more of our gardens, our chickens and our recipes in exchange for supermarket solutions. We have been told that the work required to feed ourselves and our infants is drudgery and that time spent washing bottles and standing in line at the till is freedom." - Erin Laing, "From apple pie and mother's milk to pop-tarts and formula: How will we feed the next generation?"