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More from "Fields of Plenty"

...Rethinking how our society
participates in the food system, where food is produced and by whom, and what scale it is grown on.

Aaron says that he thinks the best way to get America back into agriculture is to turn it into a spectator sport.

These two quotations go back to a point of Sohodojo's that I have often mentioned in my blog posts: that shopping can and should be an experience in itself. Michael Ableman, the author of "Fields of Plenty" firmly believes in this himself. He stresses the importance of knowing who made your food, how it was made, where it was made. There should be a connection, he says, between yourself and your food.

Ableman says that "food shouldn't be just another fuel, grown out of sight by anonymous people, prepared and consumed as quickly as possible as if it were an inconvenience." This is why it is acceptable to miss out on certain foods when they are not in season, or other foods when they cannot be grown in your area at all. Food has a life of its own; when we shop at supermarkets for our food, we often take it for granted that everything we want will be available, but that is not how food is. Just as you cannot expect to have it rain when you want to, or always be your preferred temperature outside, you can't expect that the food you want will always be on our plate. And it's not like we won't be able to survive without being able to eat our favorite foods whenever we want them. Many authors I've read have mentioned that it is fun to be unsure of what produce you will eat for the week (for example, from a CSA share). Our interactions with our food should be a manner that makes sense for both us and the food we eat.

During this internship, I have kept my eyes and ears open about the buying habits and desires of the people I observe and speak with. I have talked to people from many different spheres of life about why they buy the food that they do, and what foods they would like to buy if they were available. I am convinced that a store that took a chance to sell local produce would succeed. Not everyone, but many people are willing to sacrifice the consistency of imported produce for the better taste and environmentally and socially friendly methods of producing local foods. There are people who want to know where their foods come from, and choose to buy foods that they know are grown on a local farm. There is no reason why the farmers' market should be the only source of local foods for most people.


Modern convenience in the industrialized world has really removed us so far from our food sources. I wonder how many children in the US (not raised on farms) really understand that the frozen meat, canned vegetables, boxed corn flakes they eat every day come from live animals, fields of fresh vegetables, and rows and rows of corn.

I remember with great fondness, my grandmother's massive summer "garden" that fed four families and many of the neighbors; my uncle's grape arbor at the end of rows of fresh dill and garlic; and the many marathon summer canning events growing up in the '50s.

I vividly remember waiting with eager antitipation for the watermelon man's truck; the taste of a just picked tomato still warm from the sun; my uncle's homemade bread and butter pickles, and the excitement of finding the first pomegranats in the grocery store down the street. Til this day, pomegranates mark the first real sign of Fall for me.

When I lived in Japan in the late '60s, early '70s each change in season was marked clearly in the fruit and vegtable stands along the streets in every neighborhood. You anticipated each season for the special fruits or vegetables that would suddenly appear and be available for a few short weeks. As you walked from the train to work or home, you felt connected to the cycle of life - purchasing melons or warabi, or persimmons, or daikon as soon as you saw them - savoring the tastes of each season as it passed.

From Kyushu to Hokkaido, different areas of the country were famous for particular food stuffs. You could only buy them if you visited directly. It was always a special treat to bring back foods for friends when you traveled - sharing the tastes unique to a place.

Look at footage or photos today of the markets in India, the Middle East, China, Africa, and many places elsewhere -- you'll see mounds of produce local to the area being sold by people connected to the foods.

But now, even in Japan, the "supa maketo" features pre-packaged, canned, and off-season produce. In the pursuit of convenience, we are losing touch with the earth. And, we're spreading that distancing to countries in the world that see it as a mark of having "made it" in the world economy.

Like Abelman, at Sohodojo, we believe that many of us long for that meaningful connection - to the foods we consume. to the clothes that we wear, to the items we purchase with the money we earn.

Connection to place, to people, to seasons --- to producers of the things we buy. It is reaching to touch the Who, the How, and the Why of the things we choose to have in our lives that we at Sohodojo believe are the driving forces that will shape future consumer experiences.

The local food economy game is a prototype model for that future.