This weekend, I found myself in Burlington, Vermont surrounded by some of the most passionate, knowledgeable, and hardily-dressed people I have ever met. They were farmers, entrepreneurs, engineers, advocates, problem-solvers, chefs, parents, homesteaders, students, and community members, all with a common vision: to help cultivate a food revolution – a slow revolution that takes hold in our communities’ roots and changes the way we think about eating and agriculture as well as the way we interact with the Earth and each other.
I was at the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s winter conference, where close to a thousand mindful food-enthusiasts gathered to share and learn in a weekend packed with workshops and events (not to mention the free Strafford ice-cream!). The fact that this conference has started to exceed the space available on the University of Vermont’s campus, while annoying because of the lack of chairs, is heartening to see because it means that this movement is growing. It’s BIG…and indicative of the increasing interest in farming and food issues. People want to grow their own food. They want to start farms, live sustainably, give back to the earth, and make healthy food available to everyone. They want to be nourished.
I have thought extensively about the idea of nourishment ever since I became aware of the serious problems ravaging in our food system. Stemming from my early love of cooking and desire to live a healthy life, my early conception of nourishment focused on the health of the individual and was concerned with what growing methods and foods were best for our bodies. While attending a college renowned for its strides in sustainability, I could not help widening my definition of nourishment to encompass nourishment of the land as well. Humans need to eat, and we will be here for at least some hundreds of years more. Depleting the soil of nutrients and turning fertile areas into arid acres with industrial agricultural methods are not the answer to long life. We have to work with nature, rather than against it.
The more I immerse myself into this Slow Food/Locavore movement, the more I realize that nourishment means considerably more than I thought it did. There is a desire for nourishment on a fundamental level. People are searching for a way to nourish their minds, their souls, and their communities. This movement is human in its essence. If I have learned anything in these past couple years, it is that relationships and communication are integral when it comes to farming and building a strong local community. These concepts also provide the foundation upon which the food-movement is built. I think people want to feel a connection to the land and to those around them – a meaningful connection that creates purpose and a sense of wholeness.
There is something to be said about the 65 year-old farmer who can still wake up before dawn and work in his fields with a twinkle in his eye after working day in and day out like this for all of his life. This movement is about capturing that twinkle – that sense of deeper nourishment obtained from meaningful work and interactions – and sharing it with others. This is not just a farmer’s revolution. It is about all of us. Having witnessed the enthusiasm, innovation, and camaraderie at NOFA’s conference, I can tell you, I could not be more excited to see what we can do.