Monday, October 13, 2008

Michael Pollan in the NY Times

I can't write anything better than what I read in the New York Times Magazine this week. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, published an open letter to the next president, Farmer in Chief, outlining a plan to wean American agriculture from fossil fuels, fighting climate change, obesity, and a host of other problems in one fell swoop. Here is one of his last suggestions:

Since enhancing the prestige of farming as an occupation is critical to developing the sun-based regional agriculture we need, the White House should appoint, in addition to a White House chef, a White House farmer. This new post would be charged with implementing what could turn out to be your most symbolically resonant step in building a new American food culture. And that is this: tear out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden.

When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime. (Less well known is the fact that Roosevelt planted this garden over the objections of the U.S.D.A., which feared home gardening would hurt the American food industry.) By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America. The president should throw his support behind a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking “victory” over three critical challenges we face today: high food prices, poor diets and a sedentary population. Eating from this, the shortest food chain of all, offers anyone with a patch of land a way to reduce their fossil-fuel consumption and help fight climate change. (We should offer grants to cities to build allotment gardens for people without access to land.) Just as important, Victory Gardens offer a way to enlist Americans, in body as well as mind, in the work of feeding themselves and changing the food system — something more ennobling, surely, than merely asking them to shop a little differently.
I know it's nine pages long, but read it anyway. Pollan takes the whole big subject of food and wraps it up in a neat package of science and flavor then marinates it in culture and common sense.

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