Looking back in time, this disconnect began to accelerate during World War II, Lee says, when women needed to build parts and otherwise help with the war effort. This naturally gave them less time to prepare meals, so convenience started to become a more important factor in food preparation. As the importance of convenience grew over the next few decades, especially in families with two working parents, meals such as the frozen pot pie rose to prominence.
“The pendulum swung,” Lee says, “from my grandmother’s generation’s focus on quality food, and the family breaking bread together, to the next generation’s focus on convenience. And, as can happen, the pendulum simply swung too far.”
From that perspective, it’s easy to see how the disconnect happened. Fortunately, the buy local food movement shone a light on the problem, but the movement didn’t take one crucial factor into account: the farmer. The majority of farms, naturally, are located in rural areas. So, if you live in a city and want to purchase food grown within, say, 50 miles of your home, what do you do?
One option, of course, is to buy food grown in the indoor urban farms that are increasingly making the news. But if you read carefully, the crops are grown without soil and without sunlight. They, instead, use a plastic sponge-like material in place of Earth’s nutrient-rich soil, and electrically-powered LED lights instead of chlorophyll-producing, life-sustaining sunshine. Is this the food you really want to eat? Is this the food that you want to feed your family?
Here’s another factor to consider. When buying vegetables from a local supplier, you are buying locally – but is the produce grown locally? One longtime customer of The Chef’s Garden, Lee recalls, was receiving pressure to buy locally for his restaurant, so he ultimately did. But, “a closer look,” he adds, “showed that the haricots verts were grown in Guatemala and the tomatoes from New Zealand. This caused the restaurant’s carbon footprint to expand by 3,000 percent. Overall, we’ve seen a 300 percent increase in food imported from third world countries. What commitment do they have to quality? We just don’t know.”
“I believe we should take the best of the buy local food movement,” Lee shares, “that of choosing the source of your food carefully, and then build partnerships with like-minded people with similar philosophies about food. At The Chef’s Garden, we grow vegetables slowly and gently in full accord with nature. We wholeheartedly believe in that philosophy. And, if you share that philosophy, then we invite you to not limit your food selection by miles, but by the integrity of the products grown and the people who grow them. Yes. Be conscientious about growers. Be conscientious about how plants are sustainably farmed and about how the farmers care for the land and for other people. Be conscientious, yes. And then let’s work together so you can make the best choices possible.”