As Michael Pollan tells us in his book ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’, eating is a political act. And he’s right. Pretty much anyone and everyone who eats is influencing food policy through what they choose to put on their plate. Although a single trip to the supermarket, farmers market or local greengrocer might not seem like a major political statement, our choices of where to shop and which foods to buy can change the way food is produced and sold. Just this year supermarkets have reported sales of organic produce continuing to increase, with a wider range of organic products being purchased by shoppers looking for good quality, affordable food. A bigger market share for organic foods not only supports farmers who are already growing organically, but encourages others to consider converting to organic production too. A great example of how we can influence farming methods through making informed choices.
Michael Pollan also says that eating is an ecological act. Our dinner is part of an intricate web of ecological relationships, from the soil and seeds through to harvest and eating. Anyone who has grown vegetables or kept a few hens in the back garden will have some insight into the ways nature and food production are related. Writer and grower, Michael Kelly calls this ‘food empathy’ – a deeper understanding of and connection to where our food comes from.
The processes involved in producing food and getting it onto our plates – agriculture, fishing, manufacture and transport, have all made a marked impact on the planet. You only need to open the newspaper to find stories of rainforests being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, bee population declines being linked to pesticide use, and how agriculture is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. But there are positive stories too. Individuals and groups of people who are working to ensure food production is efficient and sustainable. These are the stories I want to focus on here. The inspiring, informative and practical stories of how food can be produced when the importance of the ecology of dinner is taken into consideration.