what i learned in atlanta this weekend

I want to be a farmer.

Whew. I said it. And what a weekend I've had. We got back last night from the Georgia Organics annual conference. It was in Atlanta this year, at Agnes Scott College, and it was terrific. Michael Pollan was the keynote speaker, and he did a great job of inspiring us all, under a big white tent on the lawn, that sounded a lot like a busy bee hive when you were standing outside. It was practically a religious revival over there. He shared some incredible statistics with us. For instance, out of the $189 billion net profits from food sales each year in the U.S., farmers get only $69 billion of that money, while the companies that make the packing materials (the cellophane and the styrofoam, etc) net $79 billion. What??
One of the more hope-inspiring things he told us was that he met with the CDC in Atlanta on Friday and was, frankly, shocked to see how much they actually "get it". They've found that 70% of Americans will die of diseases that are preventable with good diet, and they know that something needs to be done. I think one of the first policies they're working on revising is the school lunch program-- the one that currently serves chicken nuggets as the protein, tater tots as the starch, and ketchup as the vegetable.

Of course I forgot my camera on most of the farm tours, but I did capture this sweet little seed starting area in one woman's basement. I was impressed with the number of jars of canned tomatoes!

This year's conference was different than the one I went to in 2007, because it had TONS of young people-- young farmers, young gardeners, young activists. I don't know if there are more young people interested in farming now, or if there were more people because it was held in a metropolitan area, but whatever the reason, it was inspiring. If growing food is the thing that invokes passion for me, the thing that gets me going, then I need to pay attention to that. Sometimes I get caught up in the fact that I got my Master's in science and feel like the dye has been cast, that I have to work in a lab or an office and go on to get my Ph. D and do more research.....but I don't! The world needs food, the world needs farmers. It's that incredibly, beautifully simple. Errr, sort of.
Anyway, enough analyzing. The conference was great, I met young farmers, old farmers, middle-aged farmers. All passionate. All doing good, honest work and trying to make a living. It's neat that this meeting coincided with Michelle Obama and 26 5th graders planting a food garden on the White House lawn. There will be kale growing on the white house lawn! Things are changing.

1 comment:

  1. How wonderful that you were able to attend! I saw Michael Pollan last August at the Slow Food USA conference in San Francisco. He has such an astounding ability to distill difficult concepts down to their essence, making them accessible to everyone. Sounds like it was an incredibly inspiring trip!