Dan Bravin, co-founder of City Garden Farms in Portland, Oregon, and his daughter Ava stand by garlic growing in one of their smaller urban plots.
There are a lot of problems with our existing food production system. Consider: the average mouthful of food has traveled 1,500 miles before reaching our plate, losing nutrition and flavor while consuming an incredible amount of energy. Agribusiness has created vast monocultures of grains, corn, and soybeans that, directly or indirectly deliver the majority of our caloric uptake—from highly processed, corn-syrup-sweetened, polyunsaturated junk food to feedlot-fattened, antibiotic-fortified fast-food burgers. A large percentage of the vegetables and fruit we eat—usually the healthiest part of our diet—come from deserts in California that are irrigated with Colorado River water that is among the most overextended and energy-intensive water anywhere. The mammoth, centralized operations that produce our food, especially meat and poultry, mean that single contamination events put huge numbers of people at risk and results in tremendous waste—in the fall of 2007, over 20 million pounds of beef had to be destroyed as a result of E. coli
If Americans were healthy and truly nourished by this food system, then it would be easier to ignore all of these problems. But we’re not. Many of us, including a disproportionate number of the poor, are ironically both malnourished and obese, from unhealthy fats and empty starches and sugars. We need a new model of food production.