Fifty years ago, there was a direct connection between the producers of our food and the end users. Everybody went to the farmer's market or a family owned grocery store that sent a buyer down to farmers market to hand-select daily. That direct relationship enabled communication about what was important and how things were grown. Roads, refrigeration and chain grocery stores with mass purchasing power really changed the emphasis from a great quality product to how cheaply we could produce our food. What defined quality was how well the tomato would yield or ship rather than the flavor and the integrity.
I don't think we can wait for government to return the emphasis to producing the best food rather than the cheapest; this has to be a grassroots movement, because the government has got troubles of its own. So it’s time we fend for ourselves. As consumers, we can show our support for the things that are important with the dollars that we spend. That is the biggest and most influential vote we have.
Corporations that have capitalized on free trade, and being able to move large volumes of product very cheaply and make lots of money, have been short-sighted in their ethical and or social responsibilities. At the very least, they have lost their way.
Ninety percent of the products we consume in the United States come from a third-world country where labor is paid three dollars a day or less. This is a critical human rights issues, let alone the concern for the way products are grown. Yet, such injustice is directly linked to the value we’ve placed on the quality of food, so we’re responsible in part as a society for allowing it to happen. It is so imperative for us to take back control.
Corporations are pretty savvy marketers and they’ve seen the recent shift in consumers’ attitudes toward food. They’ve recognized that we in America are resisting commercialization, chemical growing and mass production, and are increasingly dissatisfied with the quality (or lack thereof) of our food supply. As a result, they’ve determined that a picture of Joe Smith in a plaid shirt with little Susie and Joey out in a field of greens along with a cute story will sell more product.
Farmer Smith may in fact supply 20 cases a year or whatever the amount may be; but, in my opinion, they’re profiting from consumers perception that all the product is coming from a small family farm, grown with consideration for the land and the people. In the meantime, go to the loading dock out back and you’ll no doubt see a large semi backed up to the door and pallets being unloaded by a forklift in massive volume. Lo and behold, the product is coming from Mexico or some other third-world country. That’s what happens when you have the best lobbyists and deepest pockets. Yes, it’s labeled certified organic, naturally grown or some other gimmicky marketing phrase and, by law, its accurate. But why are they doing this? They know that that's what we're looking for, and concerned consumers are willing to pay a premium.
My dad likes the saying that things aren't always as they seem. That’s why a direct relationship between individuals with like-minded philosophies is so critical. Develop relationships with people that you can trust; people who are transparent about their practices and would be willing to show you around their farm. We welcome any of the chefs we work with to visit us. It is by far the best way to better understand our commitment to a sustainable product, working in harmony with nature versus trying to outsmart it, thus leaving the soil in better condition than we found it for future generations .
Our chef partners know that they're working with a team that is genuinely dedicated to growing vegetables for the flavor, the integrity, the nutrient levels and the vitality, and preserving the small family farm. We are entering an era of change, and we must ourselves be responsible for reshaping society’s perspective. By considering and changing our own actions, we can each make a difference.