From my desk overlooking my front yard, I can see my freshly planted raised bed, sitting in some afternoon shade–hopefully not too much for the germinating seeds and the transplants taking root. I’m looking forward to a summer and fall filled with meals made from my own peas, spinach, kale, peppers, herbs and more.
What I already know is that turning my lawn into a place where I grow food is gratifying. And I haven’t even harvested anything yet. It’s gratifying because I know that soon I’ll be able to save a little money on groceries—or in my case, redirect the money to higher-quality food. Being out in the yard with a shovel means I see a lot more of my neighbors, and they are curious about my project. So we talk. Talking with the neighbors is good. And having a direct, physical connection to my food—I feel lucky for that. But here’s what I wonder: can my garden change the food system?
In a piece on Civil Eats last week, Dan Imhoff suggested that small acts like this: raising your own vegetables, cooking meals from scratch, can be the sparks that ultimately engage people in food system reform. From the direct and tangible to the sprawling and complex—once we stake our ground as food citizens, we might as well take a crack at participating in reform that goes beyond our own dinner tables.
At the Chefs Collaborative summit this coming October in New Orleans, Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group will join us to talk about the role chefs can play in the 2012 Farm Bill. Certainly chefs have an influential role to play—whether on the local level through their support of sustainable food production, or on the national level, by adding their voices to those calling for subsidy reform—a move that could reallocate billions of dollars toward sound food production practices that bolster, rather than undermine, public and environmental health.
In the coming months, we’ll be spotlighting Farm Bill politics in our work. As food citizens, we’re committed to helping push for change—so we’re looking to ignite the spark in others—whether it starts online, in a restaurant, or in a garden. What do you think? Can a garden change the food system?
—Leigh Belanger, Chefs Collaborative program director