This is Part 1 of a written and expanded version of my brief remarks to Rocket Hatch Thursday July 24, 2014, on Building Community Value in Local Food Systems.
The next time you go to the grocery store, you will see a supermodel. She’s fine and juicy, just the right size and has curves in all the right places. Of course, she’s been irrigated, injected, treated and wasn’t quite born with all the natural assets you see, and she’s a bit jet-lagged from travelling 1500 miles to be there for you, but such is the price of beauty.
In fact, you are going to see hundreds of them, because that is what lies in the produce section Mega Grocery, Inc. Sure, there’s the organic section with the nice personality produce, but otherwise everything you see is a supermodel of the fruit and vegetable world. Their less perfect sisters were probably left lying in the field to rot. We’ve all been guilty at some point of digging through the cucumber bin, rejecting anything with even the slightest blemish, because we have come to expect — and demand — perfection, and we eat with our eyes.
Many novice gardeners are dismayed to harvest kinky straight carrots, tomatoes with cracks and lumps, sweet potatoes with less than oval shapes and peppers that mostly rot before they turn red, wondering what they did wrong. They didn’t do anything wrong, except not have the precise irrigation and chemical treatment formula, and sometimes computer controlled monitoring with the satellite uplink. And sometimes, they planted the wrong variety needed to achieve the supermarket look.
Yet, despite having this gorgeous produce fresh and available every day of the year, as a society we take it for granted. When shopping, we don’t stop to think about the biology, genetics, chemistry, agricultural science, petroleum, field labor and logistics that brings our perfect greens to our store from California, China, Chili or Mexico, and is the safest produce in the world to eat. We take it so much for granted, that in the United States we waste half of it.
We don’t value it.