Nearly twenty years ago Wendell Berry wrote, "Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used." I agree with this wholeheartedly. In fact, it's precisely what I meant a few months ago when I dramatically announced to Chris that "food is perhaps THE most important issue of our time," although I hadn't yet read Mr. Berry's essay. Given my adoration of Wendell Berry, it should come as no surprise that he was quietly and articulately giving voice to my thoughts ten years before I even knew I'd once have them.
I've cared about how the world is used for almost as long as I can remember. It's why my favorite book as a child was Be Nice to Spiders and why my dad spent our pre-curbside pickup years shuttling me and a bunch of overflowing brown bags to the recycling center. It's why I started walking to work and why I stopped eating meat. It's also why -- after devouring a little yellow tome called Plenty and learning that each ingredient of our meals travels an average of 1500 miles from farm to table -- I abandoned organic and eagerly embraced local, and why I've been frequenting the farmers market ever since.
Oh, and it helps to explain why yesterday I woke up even before Chris, like a kid on Christmas morning, and shortly thereafter dragged him an hour south to to attend the Shetler Family Dairy's Open Barn. "You get to meet the cows!" I gushed excitedly.
And we did meet the cows who have been supplying our milk all summer, but more importantly, we got to see how the Shetler family treats its cows and to determine whether we're comfortable with that. We saw where and how the cows are milked, took a hayride through the cow pastures, and toured the bottling room. We were able to walk freely through the barn, meeting and feeding and petting the cows, one of whom liked me so much she licked me. And I tell you what, if I were a cow I'd want to live with the Shetlers.
I like knowing this; I like being connected to my food. I suspect that if most Americans had to actually witness their food being produced rather than dropping a pretty package into a shiny grocery cart, the world would be used much differently.