Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Industrial farming; stealing the good to give us fake "perfection"

There's so much wrong with the way we Modernians do agriculture, it's hard to know where to begin. One thing he mentions is the poverty of varieties in most Anglo countries that have gone big into industrialised ag-business. You have one kind of broccoli, one kind of cauli, one or maybe two kinds of carrots, if you're VEry lucky, four kinds of apples. And as he says, what is grown have to be "perfect" crops, even for the gigantic and hugely expensive, highly specialised machines to work. And of course, produce sellers won't touch "imperfect" goods, so huge amounts of what is grown gets thrown out because it's not sellable. So when you go to the shops, you're presented with a tiny fraction of the food varieties - and of course, an extremely narrow range of food nutrients (not forgetting that these highly hybridised varieties ALWays sacrifice nutrient-density for appearance and pest/disease resistance and other purely producer-oriented advantages). So, honestly we're just not getting nearly the food value we used to from fruits and veg.

This has been countered a little bit by the fad for "organic" produce, but most regular people don't shop at Whole Foods or whatever the equivalent is. There are very few farmer's markets, and none at all if you live in a city. Urbanisation, industrialisation, Henry Ford's mass production mindset, has left us in a state of poor health and cultural poverty.

But I know that in Italy, small scale farming - a lot of family farms doing mixed growing - is still a pretty strong thing. It's being strangled by government interference and EU-based agri-industrial gerrymandering, but one of the reasons Italy is still famous for food is this national growing culture. Everyone has a little orto, everyone grows veg and is accustomed to a much wider array of varieties. I don't know how many times I've had to explain that the "weird" stuff I'm growing in my garden is actually perfectly normal for Italians. (And everyone knows what to do with them. Today I snipped off the flowerets off my Cavolo Nero, sauteed them with some shaved carrots in olive oil and garlic for dinner.) Being only one or two generations away from an agricultural economy - in Norcia they only "modernised" the farming practices in 1950! they were still using oxen in 1965 - people are a lot more accustomed to the realities of farm life. People expect the vast array of brassicas every year because they grew up with Nonna pulling it out of her orto for them. There are little mini-farmer's markets in the city centres - a dozen in Rome, some of them no more than three tables worth, but everyone knows where they are and goes to them.

The other thing that survives here is what I call the "housewife culture" in which women generally get married and stay at home. The shopping is done several times a week, early in the morning (all public markets are closed by one pm) and does the cooking for the family who come home from work for the national mid-day break. Feminist politicians complain about women not being in paid employment, but I htink there's still an awareness here that the nation's economic and social health rests on the well-being of the home. And that's where women rule. Food is at the centre of that culture.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember speaking with an Italian woman in Rome some years ago, and after learning I wanted to move there from Australia, she said, 'Why? Life is the same everywhere.'

Um, no, it isn't...