|Posted by more-than-organic on December 22, 2009 at 6:50 AM|
To communicate my perspective on the monetary value of food, you´ll need a little insight into my view and what goes into forming that. Your own perspective is unique to you and I´m not expecting you to see things the way I do, but by giving you some background to what forms mine, I may add enough credibility to these ideas that you choose to give them some consideration.
Like it or not, your view of me as the author of this article will influence what you get from it. Maybe you´re under the impression I´m some wealthy hobby farmer, who has enough money squirelled away to spend my evenings writing articles like this one. Actually, in terms of income, I´ve been well under the US and UK poverty level for the last two years, have no savings and don´t receive any benefits or grants. For the past four years, I´ve supported myself by painting people´s houses and bringing on my little farm here however I could. So now you know, I´m not some fat squirell sitting on a big pile of nuts!
When I write, you get my perspective that´s hewn from my living experience - not something I´m reading in a book. Whether you agree with my perspective or not is irrelevant, as what i´m interested in doing is inspiring you to consider your own perspective, put forward your ideas and importantly, act on them. We don´t have the luxury of studying sustainability for the next twenty years, we need action now and that action starts with reflecting on our own perspectives.
A great deal of the resistance towards transition to sustainable living focuses on it being linked to a middle class or even an elitist perspective. Opponents argue that sustainable food and living is a way for affluent people to return to some type of idylic good life, because they have the money and time to do so. Unfortunately, many organic food companies continue to unknowingly perpetuate this idea by marketing their produce at a clearly defined middle class niche market: focussing on why organic food is special and some even go so far as to call their products "super-foods". This approach is not adding to the credibility of organic food as one way to transition to sane and sustainable food.
Organic food is without doubt, real food, as it´s farmed in a way that aims to work with the balancing process of nature. Nature is our starting point: nature is the Earth: people are also nature - this is ordinary common sense. From this perspective real food is truly ordinary in that it maintains a closeness, a connection with the ordinary common sense of nature. As we move further away from nature to grow and produce our food, we move further from the ordinaryness of real food. Food grown with chemically produced nitrogen and cross species genetic modification is far from ordinary and therefore far from real food: common sense?
Do you see where I´m going with this perspective? With transition to sustainable living we´re concerned with coming back to the Earth, with returning to ordinary common sense. We´re not interested in selling super foods! Ordinary common sense is not divided by class barriers, wealth or where you went to school. If anything, many people would argue that the more money we accumulate, the more we´re cushioned from having to follow our own common sense.
A large part of enjoying our lives is connected with our sense of wellbeing: maintaining a sense of balance in our lives. Let´s be clear that this wellbeing results (or doesn´t) from our whole life experience. We can´t seperate food out and base our being solely on that. Your entire experience of the present and the past results in your present state of being. Food is a facet of our wellbeing as it contributes to our vitality: we need vitality to accomplish what we want to accomplish in our lives. When we have vitality, we can accomplish tasks more easily and we can pack more quality time into our days. Vitality is a qualitative expression of wellbeing in that it can´t be pinned to scientific measurements or quantities, but it can very much be felt, experienced and expressed - it´s very human. The potential of our food to imbue us with vitality depends on the conditions in which the food was created: This is common sense isn´t it? What´s in the food is dependant on what´s going into that food? But let´s be clear, vitality is not the same as nutrient content. The latter is based on measured quantities of physical properties, while vitality results from a connectedness to whole living systems: the vast interdependant causes and conditions that result in the process of nature restoring balance. Vitality can´t be dissected and allocated a scientific quantity because when we attempt to define it in isolation from nature, it looses it´s worth: with vitality we are dealing with the bigger picture, the whole interconnectness of life. So, coming back to our discussion, the vitality that we get from our food as part of our wellbeing is the result of our food´s connection with the whole living systems of nature.
Another facet of our wellbeing is our personal connection with other people, animals and the living environment, and our awareness of how our actions affect these others. If our actions benefit others, or at least don´t harm them, our wellbeing is affected positively, as we have more peace of mind. Investing in real food from local sustainable farms means you are not only helping to preserve the natural environment, but you are directly investing in your community and it´s future capacity to provide real food for your children. Isn´t that a shrewd investment? Not only are you helping your own wellbeing, you´re investing in your children´s future as well. And this is one investment where you get to feel the benefits every day, compared with say, putting all your money into a pension which you may not live to appreciate anyhow. Or maybe you go out and buy a new car and feel very happy for a few days as you´re the talk of the town, but then your car gets scratched and you realise it´s value is depreciating everyday - not a recipe for long term happiness. And that brings up back to sustainability, which suggests long term investing.
Now we´ve an idea of why sustainable food will affect our wellbeing, lets take a look at the way we attach a monetary value to our foods. The pricing of many staple foods is kept artificially low because of a complex system of big aricultural subsidies, taxes and supermarket price fixing. Add to this, big agriculture´s capacity to produce vast quantities of a limited number of foods and we have a system that keeps supply very strong and prices down. This situation encourages people to view food generally as a commodity with low monetary value. Because real food contributes to our wellbeing and also because it is far more labour intensive than mass produced, dead food, it´s monetary value has to be higher: it´s common sense, we´re getting what we pay for arn´t we?
Advocates of real food, that are trying to make it comparitively priced to mass produced dead foods, would do better to educate people about the benefits of real food and why it´s great value to invest your money in it!
We also need to consider the face value of food. When we eat foods that give us vitality, we don´t need to eat as much volume: we´re geeting more from what we eat. Consider all those volume foods we buy in nice pretty boxes: those boxes have marketing campaigns behind them that charge a small fortune, and even with this, the food company is still making a good profit: so where is the real value for us in that food? In contrast, visit a sustainable farm, chat to the farmer - understand how much work goes into growing their food: better value? You decide.