Making the Case for Good Food


I was in New York on Sunday, and some friends invited me to an event sponsored by the picky eater offshoots of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Big Food and the Food Justice committee of Occupy Wall Street.

The event included a farmers' rally in an East Village community garden and then a march to Zuccotti Park.


The speeches, alas, were less pointed than they should have been, given how much there is to protest about our current food system.  By far the most articulate person with a mike was Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, which is suing Monsanto for contaminating organic crops with its GMO crops…and then legally attacking farmers who wind up with Monsanto's patented GMO genes in their fields.  

Gerritsen opened, cleverly, by admitting that this was his first trip ever to New York City.  "I never had a good enough reason to come before."  


After a cold march that I skipped in favor of Italian pastries and a taxi, there was a seed exchange in Zuccotti Park.  I'd brought some of my favorite dried bean, 'True Red Cranberry', to trade.  Of course, even though one of the animating slogans of the event was "Seed, Not Greed," as a real vegetable gardener, I am incapable of feeling anything BUT greed if there are bunches of interesting seeds lying around.

In order to get the most out of the exchange, I sent my adorable 9 year-old daughter into the huddle to negotiate for me.  In exchange for a handful of beans, she emerged with four heads of a red-striped hardneck garlic to plant, as well as some extremely valuable seeds, including an entirely unfamiliar onion variety and a Maine-bred and presumably cold-tough butternut squash.  In other words, she did almost as well as the trading partners of Jack in "Jack and the Beanstalk." 

One of my friends compared me to an unscrupulous gypsy turning her child into a beggar because the child is more effective.  Absolutely true!

So, here I am, utterly convinced that our food system is an ecological, epidemiological, and political disaster…thinking small at a rally.  But that seems right to me.  Until the Food Justice committee finds someone as coherent as Michael Pollan to connect the dots, it's all just arugula anyway.  Real food versus fake. Things understood at some somatic level that aren't yet cohering at the level of intellect.  

Might as well make the argument using a pretty garden and a tasty meal as any other way.


  1. Michele, I love your whole take on vegetables (love your book, by the way) and yes, our food system is screwed up. Don’t feel bad using your 9 year old, I use my 9 year old to give hubby guilt trips about smoking. Greatly more effective!

  2. it’s the right thing to do anyway : kids can be made aware of the real world we live in, and the better world we could have. Make sure you keep her warm though ! (doctor’s advice). I took my 11 year old daughter to an Emmaüs sale last weekend, never too young to learn where to get used stuff that will look great in your house and garden !

  3. Sure…camp out with slimy dirt bags with maggot infested hairy arm pits (and that’s just the women in the group) break bread and share utensils with herpes and TB infected homeless people?

    I don’t let my wife buy meat from Wal-Mart for the same reason.

    Occupy something better than this ladies

    The TROLL

  4. Our food system has been a disaster ever since cake mixes and Swanson TV dinners arrived in grocery stores.

    But, the other side of the story is people like you, Michele, who care more than most Americans ever cared about food.

    Keep nourishing us with your great writing.

    Oh, and I’ll trade you some unique seeds for a few of your true red cranberry bean seds.

  5. The Green Revolution of hybrids and modern farming techniques has alleviated much of the starving in India since introduced in the 60s. China where it was common for there to be years when millions starved is now better able to feed its 1.3 billion people. His work has doubled the yield per acre of wheat, corn, rice and other crops. He has produced strains that are drought tolerant and disease resistant. Currently there is a great effort to bring these technologies to Africa to help stop the starvation that occurs there on massive scales.
    Norman Boulag the father of the Green Revolution brought about by plant hybridization won a Nobel Peace Prize and is credited with saving over one billion lives worldwide by his efforts.
    Ignoring these facts and glorifying a group of people that seem to want to occupy a lot of things except their cranial cavities is stupifying.

  6. I am so with you on this one. Whenever I think of our food system, I feel anger boiling up inside, and I’m pretty laid back normally. Have you read The Orchard, by Theresa Weir? It is an eerie account of an apple orchard, chemicals and marriage. Scared me.

    As for your adorable nine-year-old, I think you’re teaching her to love good food. I’m trying with my three still at home too.~~Dee

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