How to Stay Hip in the Local Food Movement

“This is Sandra*… SHE grew up on a FARM!”

This is how I was introduced to Sandra, the author of a new memoir of life growing up on a dairy farm. Sandra is a retired schoolteacher who now spends her time with her hobbies: writing and taking photos of gorgeous farmland in Vermont. I met Sandra at the Seed Starter Workshop a couple of weeks ago during my volunteer hours with Friends of Burlington Gardens. She grew up on a conventional dairy farm as a kid, but, without my making any remark about conventional versus organic, she was quick to denounce conventional practices, citing the use of DDT during her youth as the cause of her cancer.

Enough about Sandra. This post is not actually about her. It’s about how she was introduced by one of the coordinators of the workshop. I cannot get the words out of my head.

“This is Sandra … SHE grew up on a FARM!”

The tone of Sandra’s introduction implied that the woman was a celebrity. It was as if the purpose of attending the Seed Starter Workshop was not to honor the gardener within each of us, but instead to admire those who had already ‘been there.’ Yes, there is wisdom to be gained from the older generation of farmers and I respect this, but that was not how this appealed to me. This was trendiness: Sandra’s presentation implied “cool”-ness. This was meant to validate her among a room of young, rugged gardeners and avid foodies, and it implied we were all proponents of the same local food trend – er, I mean, movement.

Community gardens, farmers’ markets, and small-scale food production have always had a home in ag-friendly Vermont, but now these practices are becoming more mainstream. For some, purchasing local food from farmers’ markets is trendy which hopefully won’t fall out of fashion any time soon. For others, it’s an expression of personal values. Many of us fall somewhere between these extremes. Is it worth being bothered over why we all end up supporting the same food movement?

*name changed

FN 2/13


2 comments on “How to Stay Hip in the Local Food Movement

  1. Sarah says:

    Does our entry into the local food movement matter?

    My first reaction is that how we enter isn’t as important to people as long as we enter the movement. That is, there can be a lot of snobbery around being “IN” or “OUT” of local food movements. On the other hand, even once we are “IN” the movement, how we got in can matter. For example, I bet Sandra’s introduction as a once farmer would mean more to many than my introduction as a researcher or a consumer of local foods.

    We all have valuable roles in local food movements, but I can help but think some roles are valued more than others.

    How do you view your entry into the local food movement? Does that impact how you or others esteem your role?

  2. I have weaved in and out of the local food system through a variety of roles. When I began a summer working as a vendor at a farmer’s market, I managed to fit in to the scene through my boyfriend, whose knowledge of plants and growing food made me feel more validated among the farmers. I still will use the knowledge I have gained through food and garden experiences to feel validated or “IN” during situations where I want to fit in with other foodies and farmers. At the same time, I want to believe I will accept others into the food movement I join without requiring they have previous knowledge or experience in the food system. The food movement is a way to develop community, so I want to invite everyone to join… but at the same time, who joins will shape the local food movement.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s