Distance Distorts Understanding

Conveniences in food purchasing and preparation are leading to continued decline in connection to agriculture

Combine and grain cart

We Americans want it all. We want the big paychecks and the 40-hour work week. We want well behaved kids but don’t want to tell them no. We want big houses but little upkeep. And we want the trendiest, healthiest and riches foods but none of the input required to get it to the table.

Today’s culture has become obsessed with cooking and all things food. We have multiple television channels devoted to cooking and culinary trends. Food retails were responsible for more than $500 billion in sales in 2016 and just recently, retail giant Amazon jumped into the grocery market, buying Whole Foods and sending shock waves through the industry.

But like all things in our busy lives, we don’t seem to actually have time to shop for and prepare these amazing foods we are insisting be found on our dinner table. Heck, we hardly have time to sit down and enjoy a meal. Grocery stores now offer online ordering and curb side delivery and if you can’t possibly make it to the parking lot, a dozen or so new companies specialize in delivering meal kits directly to our homes.

While all of this convenience is nice, it’s also a bit worrisome. At a time when we have become so entrenched in dictating food policy and eating habits not just of ourselves but others – see article on school districts reducing meat consumption of its students – we are farther removed than ever from the people, places and systems that grow our food and deliver it to the table.

I’m certainly not one to point fingers. I just polished off a frozen microwave meal and handed my children Eggo waffles as they walked out the door this morning. But I still believe in cooking and making the weekly trek to the grocery store to personally pull the boxes and cans from the shelves and throw them into the back of my always dirty car. And being married to a farmer, I get to witness each part of the growing and harvesting process. Today less than 2% of the country’s population shares my experience and understanding of the food system and that’s too few.

That decline in direct connection to food has been in stark contrast to the uptick in regulations, proposals and pushes to label, stipulate and mandate ingredients, growing practices and preparation techniques. We want unblemished products from untreated seeds and unprotected plants. We want healthy and balanced ready in 30 minutes and for less than $5 per person. We want our farmers and ranchers to raise products using outdated and ineffective growing practices but want to use 21st century technology to deliver it the next day to our kitchen table.

As American consumers, we have access to the most abundant, healthy and affordable food supply on the planet. Nowhere else can people enjoy so much for so little. But our push to move technology out of the field but onto our kitchen table has further distorted most consumers’ views and understanding of how food is raised and impacts our bodies and overall health. We want to see all Americans with equal access to all things healthy and gourmet but we don’t want to see farms grow or consolidate to realize the efficiencies necessary to produce affordable grains, beef and dairy products. People who have never in so much as peeled a potato want to tell others how and what to eat.

American consumers cannot continue to take a hands-off approach to purchasing and preparing food but insist on dictating how our farmers raise their crops and others get their nutrients. If consumers want to make decisions on meals, they need to be more involved in the growing of the food. But the more we walk away from buying and preparation, the most uneducated and uninformed we all become in regards to our food.


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