Slow Food Los Angeles

Good, clean and fair food access for all of L.A.

“Amber Fields of Bland”: Evaluating the Farm Bill

If you missed it, Dan Barber, chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns (New York state), contributed to the debate over the upcoming Farm Bill in last Sunday’s New York Times:

There’s invariably something risky, if not risible, about allowing Congress to decide what’s for dinner. Bad decisions about agriculture have defined government policy for the last century; 70 percent of our nation’s farms have been lost to bankruptcy or consolidation, creating an agricultural economy that looks more Wall Street than Main Street.

Now, after the uprooting of a thousand years of agrarian wisdom, we chefs have discovered something really terrible — no, not that the agricultural system we help support hurts farmers and devastates farming communities, or that it harms the environment and our health. What we’ve discovered is that the food it produces just doesn’t taste very good.

Who’s responsible for the blandness? Look no further than Washington: There you will meet not farmers, but the people determining how our farmers farm. They do it through the farm bill, a mammoth piece of legislation that designates American agricultural policy every five years and that Congress is preparing to take up in its new session.

This is a sweeping bill, omnibus in every sense — nutrition, conservation, genetic engineering, food safety, school lunch programs, water quality, organic farming and much more. It’s really a food and farm bill. If you’re a chef or a home cook or someone who just likes to eat, it affects you, because it determines what you eat and how what you eat is grown. . . .

For the full text of Chef Barber’s op-ed piece, visit the Times’ website.

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