“I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as “consumers.” If they think beyond that, they recognize that they are passive consumers. They buy what they want — or what they have been persuaded to want — within the limits of what they can get. They pay, mostly without protest, what they are charged. And they mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and the cost of what they are sold: How fresh is it? How pure or clean is it, how free of dangerous chemicals? How far was it transported, and what did transportation add to the cost? How much did manufacturing or packaging or advertising add to the cost? When the food product has been manufactured or “processed” or “precooked,” how has that affected its quality or price or nutritional value?”
Wendell Berry has authored over forty books of fiction, poetry and essays. He is a farmer and philosopher.
“Eating is an agricultural act” has becoming a rallying cry of the food movement for it’s simplicity and truth. We have become so separated from the process of agriculture that we forget we are a part of it.
This excerpt is from Berry’s essay The Pleasures of Eating, from his book What Are People For? (which can be purchased here). It’s an excellent reminder that though we currently pay little to attention to how and where what we eat comes from, “food” is not an abstract idea.