By: Demi Marshall
For the longest while, I’ve been purchasing certified USDA Organic products. Before working at Whole Foods Market, I never really knew what it meant for a product to be considered USDA Organic. However, after a dreadful three-days-worth of training videos, I can confidently tell you what it means for a product to be certified USDA Organic. For a product to get the USDA Organic Certification, it must be made with 90% or more organically-derived ingredients. However, salt and water are the two exceptions to being deemed organic, because no such classification exists. As I watched more videos and took an array of practice quizzes, I started thinking how bizarre the American food system really is.
As consumers, Americans shouldn’t feel like they’re stepping on a battlefield when they go to the grocery store. Our relationship with food has completely diminished to us nit picking every little ingredient on nutrition labels, while patting ourselves on the back when we see the words “Fair Trade” on a product we’re purchasing. As we browse the aisles at a grocery store, we think to ourselves, “I’m a good Samaritan, because I know the food I eat is certified USDA Organic, free-range, Non-GMO, and Fair Trade.” But really, is that enough? Personally, I think not. Supporting local agriculture and getting to know how the food you consume is sourced is crucial to appreciating it. Before working on a farm, I had no clue how to harvest potatoes, nor did I realize squash and zucchini can grow to be over a foot long in length. Why did I not know any of this information prior to working on a farm? Well, the answer is quite simple; I had no relationship with food prior to this fellowship position.
This disconnect is a product of mass-production, technological advancement, and societal pressures. Gathering, preparing, and consuming food has become more of a chore, rather than a leisurely activity. After an 8-hour workday, most people want something quick, filling, and cheap. Local, sustainably-sourced produce and livestock doesn’t necessarily fit the bill. In-order-to have a relationship with food, one must also change his or her lifestyle. There won’t be any fast food restaurants or grocery stores that will cater to your newfound needs. Building a relationship with food entails taking time out of your day for it, whether that be waking up early on a Saturday to go to the farmer’s market or tending to a vegetable garden in your backyard. Ultimately, the power lies within the consumer to decide whether or not he or she wants to build a relationship with food. Luckily, it’s never too late to start.