I want you all to imagine a world where tall smokestacks didn’t fill the sky with gray clouds of pollution, where forests weren’t clear cut for food and turned into wasteland, where animals as well as their habitats were not objectified, tortured and are absent of all humane treatment. A world where both the issues of obesity and starvation almost ceased to exist and all people despite their race, color, or location had access to affordable healthy foods. Now I want to tell you that this world you’re imagining is possible but, only if we act now to stop America's corrupt Industrial Agriculture industry.
When I was in the 4th grade, I watched a documentary called Earthlings, which I’m sure many of you are familiar with. The film exposes the sufferings endured by animals on factory farms. When it ended, I went straight up to my mom and said mommy; I’m a vegetarian. And she just stared at me, speechless. Of course she had no idea what film I had just watched as I’m sure she wouldn't have let me watch it, knowing my mother. Still in her silence I said again; mommy I don’t want to eat animals anymore. She asked me why and I said well, it’s just not right. They deserve better than the way we treat them. She supported me, thinking it wouldn't stick, and she was partially right.
My vegetarian journey has been on and off since then. However, once I began attending the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and learned more of the corrupt, unsustainable, inhumane, unequal, and environmentally destructive industrial food industry, the vegetarianism finally stuck and i’ve now been a vegetarian for two years. Even though being a vegetarian is more sustainable, unfortunately it is still a lifestyle that contributes to the industrial food industry. I've always had this strong feeling that there must be a better eating lifestyle out there with stronger morals, more sustainability efforts and does not contribute to the horrific practices of the industrial food industry…
...it was then that I learned of a locavore. A person who strives to buy only locally produced products, giving no support to the industrial agriculture system where we find these corrupt food factories that pollute the environment, torture animals, and make food access unequal to all people. Though I am trying, I cannot myself claim to be a locavore as the food industry has such a strong hold over a poor non-mobile college student like myself. There are however many local businesses as well as many individuals who have sworn off the food industry and are buying from only local family owned farms.
In an interview with Professor Evan Weissman of Syracuse University's Food Studies department, Professor Weissman claimed “the most problematic issue about the structure and function of the industrial food system is that it is more intent on generating profit rather than feeding the people in a sustainable way” (Weissman, Evan). Weissman believes the issues created by the wicked problem of America's food industry are best addressed starting from grassroots organizations and for this reason he puts a lot of effort into developing Syracuse Grows and the Westcott Community Garden as well as promoting and supporting local farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA), which are activities that I have been growingly partaking in as often as possible.
A local business that I myself am very found of that has jumped on the local foods band wagon by only supporting the local food industry is a vegan cafe called Strong Hearts Cafe. Strong Hearts has “been serving affordable and delicious animal, earth and health friendly food since 2008” (Ryan, Strong Hearts) . Their goal as a business is to “strive to support local food producers and our community while setting an example as a business with sustainable products and practices (Ryan, Strong Hearts). And there food happens to be delicious.
It is businesses like Strong Hearts Cafe and individuals like Evan Weissman that are making the difference in the fight against America's corrupt industrial agriculture system. The system is not going to change from within. It must be changed through an overall cultural shift in the demands of the people. We the people have the power, not the industries. If we demand the food they will supply it. However, if we only buy local we will strip them of the demand the industry will crash and local foods will persist.
This incredible Journey that many people and I have embarked upon has and will continue to teach us many things as we venture further down the path. But most importantly, it has taught us that there is hope. That there are things we can do everyday to fight the food factory industry. That the fight is not a lost cause and we can’t just give in to the monopolized corporate Industrial Agricultural system. We must rather stand up and shift our culture towards a more sustainable, local agriculture system and fight for our health, fight for our food access, fight for the animals and fight for our environment. The future of food has the potential to be extremely bright, are you going to join in the fight and make our gardens greener?
- Fagan, Kelly (Photographer). (2016, June 4). My Vegan Journey. Personal Image.
- Parish, Melissa (Photographer). (2017, Feb.) Supporting Local Farmers Markets. Personal Image.
- Parish, Melissa (Photographer). (2017, Feb.) Emily Fusco Perusing Strong Hearts Menu. Personal Image.
- Prabhu, Pranav (Photographer). (2015, April 7). The World Is beautiful. [Digital image]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bl-Xoxy5pF8
- Ryan, Nick. Personal Interview. 18. Feb. 2017.
- Weissman, Evan. Personal Interview. 14. Oct. 2016.