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.