Tomorrow I will be heading down to City Hall in Los Angeles to present the recommendations from the Los Angeles Urban-Rural Roundtable to the Mayor’s Food Policy Task Force. Why take most of the day away from the farm to talk City food policy? In short, I am going because the policies and attitudes about food and agriculture in Southern California will determine the destiny of our family farm. And if I want to shape that destiny, I need to go where the people are. (Actually the same reason I write the blog…)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But when we talk about food, then a bite is worth a whole book. We need to be finding ways to expose more people to better foods. When we do, they will want more. Maybe not all of them, but enough to start a cycle. Where there is a demand, farmers and entrepreneurs will find it. When they will succeed, others will follow. More gain access to healthy food. Demand grows. The cycle continues.
I appreciate the irony that we will be having this meeting in a room where we can’t eat. I’m taking along some of our fresh citrus as a prop. I’d love to pass them out and let everybody try some, but we can’t. Rules have there place, even the rule that prevents us from eating in a City Hall hearing room. But rules can also restrict options, narrow choices and limit selection. To solve the problems that we face today may require some new rules. But more importantly it will require us to expand our capacity for innovation and creativity.
I’m not contradicting the spirit of these recommendations to note that the rules protecting us from our food have had the unintended consequence of disconnecting us from our food. We may have little idea what we are putting in our mouths. But we are comfortable and confident because we know somewhere there are libraries full of regulations and armies of white-coated inspectors with clipboards. We know our food comes in hermetically sealed packaging with plenty of labeling. We don’t read the labeling, but it all seems very sanitary… very safe. And it is safe. The food safety record in the US is pretty good. Instead, it’s the food which isn’t very good. We have done a good job of making our food safe, only to discover that our diets aren’t. We have tried to take the human element out of the loop when it comes to food. I think it is time to put the human element back. And who better to address that issue with policy makers than a food producing human?
So ultimately I am engaged in this effort because I believe that better policies (as opposed to “more policies”) will lead to more health and happiness for the residents of our region. Sure, in the long run it may help me sell more citrus and avocados. But that is good for my happiness.