Not all food is actually food. Most of the stuff we can buy in the grocery store is chemically designed, processed, and manufactured. In Defense of Food is Pollan’s argument against this type of consumption, describing the reasons why processed food should be avoided and laying guidelines for a healthier diet. The guidelines were the main reason I read the book – I wanted the facts behind what I already believed was a healthier way to eat. Pollan’s simple manifesto? – “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants.”
You’re better off eating whole fresh foods rather than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to ‘eat food,’ which is not quite as simple as it sounds. For while it used to be that food was all you could eat, today there are thousands of other edible food-like substances in the supermarket.
– Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food
But Pollan’s “diet” could not have been sustained a few decades ago. He admits that “There would have been no way to eat the way I propose without going back to the land and growing your own food. It would have been the manifesto of a crackpot.” But that’s beauty of living today. We have choices. Almost every town, or at least county, has a farmers market – and they’re growing in numbers every year. More small farms are in this country than there have been for decades. The “real food” is there. We have the option to eat it. And if you know anything about the benefits of this type of eating for your health and the environment then you would be crazy not to.
Except for money.
It’s hard for me to deny that local food is expensive. I wish it wasn’t so deeply that I almost believe it… until I wring up at the farm stand register on Saturday. Food is expensive, farmer’s market food is more expensive. There’s no getting around that. Sure, the food is so much healthier and you know you’re supporting a local economy. But my wallet still cries every Saturday morning when I bike home with my bounty. I’m sure many of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. Especially if you’re 20-something. Some people garden instead. My mom does. I would too if I had the land (and time), but I don’t. So what can the rest of us do? Besides cry when we unwillingly purchase the cheaper, nutrition-depleted stuff in the grocery store?
We can farm. A work share, a real one, is when someone donates their time, rather than their money, to a local farm in exchange for a CSA share (a box of “real food” goodies every week). Often there is a prescribed number of hours each week he/she works for the farm and then they pick up their CSA share with the rest of the paying members.
However, it doesn’t have to be that formal. When David and I arrived in Durango we headed straight for the farmer’s market to sign up for a work share. No one had any available. Those that offered work shares were full for the season already… but those that didn’t were begging for help. Come volunteer! They told us, We’ll send you home with food!
So last Friday we went out to All Seasons Farm to help out Gabe. Gabe is a one man show. He runs his little farm all by himself and he works nearly 15 hours each day to do so. In the three hours we worked we transplanted three days worth of seedlings for him – he was ecstatic. He needed the help, it felt good for us to help him, and we went home with broccoli, salad mix, and honey. It’s not a formal CSA share, but we still get food, and we get to feel really good about helping someone who really needs it. Now we’re going out every Friday morning.
So, if you’re avoiding the farmers market because you can’t afford it, head out next weekend and shake some hands. Ask farmers if you can “work for food.” Especially the smallest farms, because they’ll appreciate you the most. Most likely one will say yes, you can exchange numbers, and sooner than you think you’ll be out in the sunshine and dirt, earning your “real food” with your own sweat and joy.