Pollan, M. 2006. Omnivore’s Dilemma . England: Penguin Books Ltd. p.186-276.
It is March 18th and it feels like spring. I was able to sit cozily in a sweater, midday on a bench at my university campus and begin to explore part 2 of Micheal Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” following a part one reading a few weeks back that I had thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t know exactly what spring weather in March means for us environmentally- and I am also not about to try to delve into it. I mention spring, or the spring like weather, only for its symbolic nature. New beginnings. Lately, I have been feeling a desire to change something. To connect.
Yesterday, I had been sitting in the hot tub with some friends and we were planning for later in the week to go on hike during dusk to catch the sunset. Naturally, the question came up: when does the sun go down? Practically impulsively, someone had suggested “google it.” I had an immediate repulsion. We were hiking in 4 days. This meant, as I suggested, that we had 4 days to figure out exactly when the sun goes down on our own. With our own eyes. As the sun brightly warmed my face more and more, with every page I turned of Pollan’s story, I was beginning to feel anew this desire for connection. So what about Pollan’s story inspired this?
What I thoroughly enjoyed from Pollan’s story before, and what I enjoyed again are his bold themes. Why is our food system the way our food system is? In pursuit of these answers, Pollan tells his story chronologically through his first hand experiences. He is not solely researching answers, nor just speaking with various people, he is physically there to live it. On the farm. Connected. It is this perspective that really captures my attention and likely in part why I feel I want to strive to do the same. Furthermore, it is this perspective that works in favour of his themes. In our current food world of smoke and mirrors, what could possibly be more clear than Pollan’s first hound account of the Salatin’s honest farm-or better so, their ecological safe haven. Not only does his account work to explain why we should probably care a lot more about where our food is coming from, but his use of characters again makes the case for this. Again, what could possibly be more clear than hearing exactly the knowledge from the farmers themselves. Queue our introduction to Joel.
Pollan’s story is largely about the people. Joel, the farmer, is a very likable character in the story. He is a highly brilliant farmer, with both knowledge and dignity , along with a certain “revolutionary zeal”(p.251). He is not just a character, but a real person-and who is remarkably inspirational at that. Joel is like the Ghandi of farming. He explains in great detail the up keep of his farm, or as I see it-an ecological safe haven as it is a farm based for sustainability relying on the maintenance of its entire ecosystem. He takes full accountability and responsibility for the environment, for the animals and ultimately for his products. It is quality. The pitfall of this type of farming dignity: the consumer price. This same quality is priced higher when compared to the price in stores for the industrial food commodities, where their focus is quantity. Joel makes two very intriguing statements about this price comparison. One being, we pay more for quality in all other consumer domains-why not with our food. When you really reflect on this, it is actually rather insane. Our food is the very substances we consume to keep us alive , yet we care so little about its quality. It is so strange. The second point Joel makes is that his quality is actually “the cheapest food you can buy”(p.243). As he further explains, it is largely unjust to compare quality and quantity-they are 2 separate entities. What I gathered as most striking through Joel’s insightful farming knowledge was the amount of effort and thought put into every action on his farm. He demonstrates a complete care for his work, and largely for our world. This lead me to question that if Joel can put it this immense effort and work every day for his quality and morally ethical products, why can I not care enough to buy it? Then, almost climatically Pollan’s harrowing words hit: is our aversion to caring/ buying from farmers a matter of affordability or priority…
I have had some local Kamloops onions sitting in my pantry that I had obtained from school for maybe a month now. I noticed a few weeks ago, I had still not used any and a couple were beginning to sprout greens. I had never seen this of our onions purchased before, I figured it was the start of new onions growth and I wondered why our regular onions did not do this. I left them. However with Pollan’s thoughts already somewhere in my head, along with a feeling of wanting to connect and spring time’s arrival-I had the perfect storm. Suddenly, when Pollan questioned the real reason we avert local eating, something changed. It was decided. I was going to plant those sprouting Kamloops onions. My first horticulture endeavour. I finished the reading and immediately grabbed the onions. I cut them carefully, unveiling what I had expected: an enclosed fresh bulb within. Then I searched for a couple of old pots. I dug up some dirt from my backyard, and mixed in some mulch stored in our shed from last summer. Combining it all together, I had my very first potted vegetable. Two of them. Now, although my feelings of spring may actually fail me, considering the future of possible looming cold weather could jeopardize my onions, today was nonetheless, the beginning of something bigger for me. I am going to make that effort to connect. As I set my new potted onions indoors by the window, they received their very first warmth of sunshine, the last of todays. Not long after, the sun set at 7:25pm.