What a week it’s been for the agrifood business to go on a wild ride with the national popular press. The ride started with Sunday’s edition (October 12) of Food Fights, the New York Times Magazine, with a reported circulation of 1.7 million.
In a “Dear Mr. President-Elect” nine-page diatribe, Michael Pollan wrote “It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril…”
If you want a real eye opener, be sure to look at Pollan’s answers to questions on land-grant universities, organic farming and why the food crisis of today is more serious than it was in the 1970s. You can learn more about Pollan, along with his latest book “In Defense of Food.” One might question what makes him an expert in food production and his continual reference to “industrial agriculture” – not to mention the ultimate environmental impact of a few of his suggestions.
Next up, on October 14, How We Treat the Animals We Eat was Oprah’s attempt of explaining food animal production – a nearly impossible task in one hour. The show featured the golden-tongued Wayne Pacelle of HSUS, who seemed to find opportunity to talk over producers trying to make valid points. Kudos to the modern producers who had the guts to go on national TV and try to explain our food system of today. Whether you liked what they said or not, at least they made an effort. Can you say the same?
Nicholas Kristof penned a piece that grabbed Oprah’s attention on the whole issue related to Proposition 2 in California. A Farm Boy Reflects includes Kristof’s observation that “the tide of history is moving toward the protection of animal rights, and the brutal conditions in which they are sometimes now raised will eventually be banned. Someday, vegetarianism may even be the norm.” It’s an interesting piece, particulary when a New York Times columnist is referencing himself as a farm boy. Yet, his views are an excellent example of the way that folks reference their own historical viewpoint of agriculture, be it their own from 40 years ago, their grandparents or great grandparents.
The ride will continue and at some point, more agricultural folks are going to need to jump on board to more consistently provide reference points for media, consumers and your neighbors about how food is produced. After all, if you’re not framing the discussion, these are some of the examples of people who will.