How Did America Lose Its Connection With Food?

| 3/14/2011 5:42:45 PM

Fire escape garden It's been established that as a society and a culture the Americans need to reconnect with our food source. There aren't many that currently grow or ever grew any of their own food.    

Until the past 100 or so years, growing food was a task that nearly all Americans took part in. Whether they were growing some of their own or helping others in their community. It's just the way it was.

In the times which we currently live, we have become mired with other daily activities that have taken priority over growing food that we have no sense of connection with our food.

It's something that we have come to take for granted and expect it to just be there. We have gone from being so involved with the production of it to being left completely in the dark.

People are starting to change and inquiring more about their food, where it is coming from and what's happening to it before it gets to our plates.

Before asking where it came from, I think we should ask when did this change? How did this change? 

While there are many events that have lead us to where we are today in terms of food, here are four things/events that stand out the most in my mind:


The World Wars

After the first World War, pesticides and chemicals started to be used heavily on produce crops. The reason for using them was that they were supposed to protect the crops from bugs and insects, thus producing a higher yield.

This made the traditional farming methods nearly obsolete. Despite the fact that they were used for thousands of years, methods such as crop rotation and using animals to fertilize the land were deemed archaic and couldn't produce the amount that this new method could. 

The use of pesticides and sprays led to the mass farming practices that are still being practiced today.  

Removing Women from the Home 

Before I get blasted for this one, please let me explain. I actually got this idea from Barbara Kingsolver in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and from Shannon Hayes in Radical Homemakers.

In each of those books they mention that the women's liberation movement was carefully position as empowering women by getting them out of the kitchen and into the workforce. 

There is no doubt that it did achieve that goal, but at what cost? Do you know what else (conveniently) happened at the same time? Heavily processed foods started to show up in the stores and being pushed.

Up until that time, women spent their time at home preparing meals from for their families that was either sourced from their own gardens or from those in their community. They had a better connection with what was going into the bodies of their families because they were picking and preparing it.

Suddenly someone else was put in charge with this responsibility.

Cheap Oil 

As oil became cheap, it allowed food to be shipped long distances. That coupled with the sprayed produce allowed farmers to grow massive amounts of crops and ship them nationally (and globally). 

People could now get their (cheaper) produce from a farmer that was hundreds or thousands of miles away and spraying who knows what on it.

It started to become a class and luxury thing that you could get certain produce year round. Now it was possible to get strawberries year round despite it being the middle of winter or that you could live in New York and have access to tropical fruits like pineapples.


This is a result of the three reasons mentioned above. Advertisers and marketers are some of the smartest people on the planet. They know how to illicit responses from their target markets.

In the case of the chemically sprayed produce, it was positioned as being able to feed more people and a cheaper method. The traditional way of growing produce was given the new name of "organic" while the new method was given the name "conventional."

Why not call it what it is? Chemically sprayed. Why was the method that's been around since the beginning given this new label? Organic is the way that produce has been farmed for thousands of years. 

As for the Women's Movement, all of these new processed and packaged foods are advertised as quick and easy because "you don't have time to cook a meal for your family. We can do it for you."

Now instead of chicken with mashed potatoes, homemade gravy and broccoli, families are eating high fructose corn syrup, salt, hormone injected chickens and a bunch of unpronounceable additives.


This isn't an alarmist post to point out a bunch of problems and offer no solutions. There are simple ways that you can eat organic and local on a budget. You can start to grow your own food. Space isn't an excuse. You don't have to have a huge garden or tons of land. I've never had land and have been apartment gardening since 2009. If you do have tons of land, use it!   

Just growing one plant will certainly make a difference and help you to reestablish that connection with your food. It can be a simple herb in your windowsill. Nothing fancy or crazy.

The most important thing is to build a relationship with the people that are growing and making your food. Ask them questions about growing practices and where the food came from. You owe it to yourself to start taking food back from the corporations that took it from us.







Mike Lieberman
3/26/2011 4:04:15 PM

@Sara That sounds awesome. It's great that you have the family involved and are making the most of your small space.

Sara Fitzpatrick Comito
3/24/2011 3:05:54 PM

What a thoughtful post. I'm enjoying the City Farming Blog immensely. I live on a square city lot, much of which belongs to our dogs. In a cordoned off space, we've started growing veggies in some leftover crates from my husband's stonework company. We lined them with sheets, filled them with dirt and voila! We're also finding our small area is enough for some small (quiet) livestock, too. There's a huge learning curve, but it's worth it to us for our family to have a connection with our food. Thank you!!

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