Food and the Social Justice Movement
Food is the altar of humanity. No matter the race or creed, nationality or history, there is no human society that has not centered itself around the table. Necessity aside - we have always viewed food as our gathering point. Since the beginning of our kind, food has been a symbol of the ties that bind families, a sign of the culturally enriched and a signifier of wealth; it has inspired wars and inflamed the imagination. Today, food is finding its niche in the grassroots movement, and nowhere in the western world is this more apparent than in San Francisco. Don't fool yourself thinking that dining out is merely a means of satisfying your hedonistic desires (or masochistic, depending on which establishments you patronize). You're fighting a war here. Ok, that might be more drama than you'd like to introduce into your digestive system, but there's a point to be made. Every dollar you spend on food can either go to directly support a local family, healthy ecosystems and crop diversity, or it can go to support a corporate farm, the degradation of our soil and water systems, and the reinforcement of monoculture crops. Of course, it's not always so cut and dry, but it's something to consider.
The eco movement has brought on a big push for organic edibles. The demand is rising and the market is responding. This is fantastic, but the mainstreaming of organics also has its pitfalls. One tends to think organic=good, non-organic=not-so-good. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. There are dozens of other factors to consider. What's the carbon footprint of that organic orange? How fresh is it? Are the practices of the corporation that owns those fields ethical? Does their profit benefit the local economy? Which should we support: the local, family farm that is not certified organic, or the corporate farm with an organic line that grows and ships its produce in from abroad? There are farms that use sustainable practices but can't get official organic certification due to high costs, or the fact that the farm bordering their fields uses pesticides. One can get bogged down with these questions, and in places where the options are few, it might be best to simply reach for the organic label.
In the Bay Area, however, we have been blessed not just with diversity and quality, but with endless opportunities to educate ourselves on the topic. In light of this, I decided to follow Diane Goodman - nopa's "Grandmother" and a leader in the sustainable food movement - to the farmer's market to find out just how, with all the choices out there, nopa decides which farms to buy from. The answer lies somewhere in the middle of crop location, seasonality, decades of farmer-buyer history, organic practices, and of course, quality. Watch the video below to see the nopa process of product selection, and to get a sense of our farm-to-restaurant relationships.
Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjKHz0Pt-bE
NOTE: This video sadly became a memorial piece to Diane Goodman, who passed away a year ago, shortly after the footage was taken. For all the love and passion she put into her life and work, she is an endless source of inspiration.
Posted November 11, 2009 • Filed under Food
Video Filmed by Bergen Moore. Edited by Rachel Glueck. 2008
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Former Server, nopa
Working at nopa and seeing the community bonds that the sustainable agriculture movement is building in SF, Rachel was inspired to dig a little deeper. She has always had a keen interest in seeking out the personal stories and philosophical musings rooted in current events and social movements – usually by way of offbeat adventure. Spending the past 4 years doing just that (motorcycling Vietnam’s backroads, sailing in a handmade boat to Panama, etc), and craving adventure in her new, “settled” SF life, she jumped at the chance to explore California’s Ag. community (preferably, via motorcycle). When she’s not serving, or interviewing nopa’s purveyors, she can be found riding her little ’69 Honda along the coastline, or working on her non-profit cultural education project, TE KORU.
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