Wednesday, January 27, 2016
For Love of Food
One or two generations ago, many more Americans had a close personal connection to agriculture. Even if you didn’t live on a farm yourself, chances were you knew a farmer, maybe from visiting your grandparents’ farm, or knowing a neighbor or friend who was a farmer. People felt more of a connection to farming, and they were also more likely to grow, preserve, and cook their own food. Then the baby boom generation came of age and both parents went to work, creating a demand in the American food chain for convenient, cost-effective access to food. Farmers responded by embracing technology and specialization (focusing on raising one crop or species of livestock rather than raising many different types of produce and livestock on the same farm). As a result, farm productivity advanced rapidly, and food became more uniform, consistent, and affordable. Restaurant and grocery chains capitalized on this, finding a ready market in American families that were strapped for both cash and time. This system works well.
But it’s not perfect. Food gets recalled. Fast food restaurants are shut down for food-borne illness outbreaks. Animal abuse videos are released. We hear that our children are expected to die sooner than we will as result of obesity. Conflicting studies are published regarding the safety of Genetically Modified Organisms(GMO’s). New diets suggest that people should avoid eating certain fats, sugars, carbohydrates, dairy, gluten, etc.(leaving us to wonder what exactly are we supposed to eat?). And the message consumers are hearing is this: “Food is unsafe. You don’t know what’s really in it. You don’t know how it’s made. You can’t know whether it’s healthy for your family or not.” Many consumers are afraid of food. And as a farmer, this breaks my heart. Because I love food. I love growing it, and sharing it with you. I love the feeling of accomplishment after a good harvest, and the anticipation of planning for the next growing season. I love learning how to best work with the land, but always being forced to respect the forces of nature that are out of my control. I love doing this with my family. And increasingly, I’m coming to see you, our neighbors and customers, as our family. We couldn’t do this without you, and I’m proud of the community that we’re building together.
That being said, I hope we can agree on one thing; there is no place for fear in our community. We are a community built on a passion for good, nutritious, and delicious food, in addition to our love for each other. We believe these two things complement and edify one another. If we have questions or concerns about our food, we ask (with the confidence that we can speak directly to our farmers). Our conversations regarding food are honest, but always respectful. We don’t need to tear each other down or attack other farmers or farming practices because they do things differently from us. We appreciate the farmers for their hard work to bring food to market, and the consumers for choosing to support local farms with their tightly-stretched dollars. We utilize food to sustain ourselves and our families, create memories, unify our town, lift up those in need and support our local economy. We love good food, but we recognize that the Indiana County Farmers’ Market is about way more than food. It’s about building a community who loves food and loves each other. Will you join us?
Morgan Livingston is a 5th generation farmer from Mahoning Creek Farm just outside Smicksburg, PA. Her parents, Bob & Darlene Livingston, raise pigs, sheep, cattle, and chickens, and sell their locally raised meats at the Indiana County Farmers’ Market and at their on-farm roadside stand. You will occasionally see Morgan helping with the MCF stand at the Farmers’ Market throughout the season. Morgan lives in Red Lion, PA, where she is pursuing her Master’s of Social Work at Millersville University and working as a Social Worker in York.