This weekend, Andy and I took a much-needed break from the steam of the pressure cooker and ventured to the Food for Thought Festival in Madison on Saturday and then to the Harvest Party at Harmony Valley in Viroqua on Sunday. Both days were reaffirming, exciting, and inspirational to both of us as we continue forth in our quest to eat more locally and sustainably.
On Saturday, the highlight of the Food for Thought Festival was hearing Michael Pollan speak. Andy and I have both read The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and in turn, hold Mr. Pollan in high regard. His work and appearances in Food, Inc. solidified our admiration. At the festival he gave a very inspiring speech, describing ways in which consumers can work to make real change happen in food politics.
Among all the facts and inspiration, there were a few tidbits which we found especially striking:
1. Three companies in the United States are producing 85% of the country's beef. Wow.
2. It used to be that it took 1 calorie to produce 2 calories of food; today, it takes 10 calories to produce 1 calorie of food. In Michael Pollan's words, "We are eating oil and spewing green house gas."
3. School lunches need to change. Michael Pollan pointed out that the current lunch program is teaching kids how to eat when it offers them chicken nuggets, tator tots, and juice for lunch with only ten to twenty minutes allowed to consume that lunch. He somewhat comically suggested that kids should earn credit for learning how to eat properly, just like they earn credit for Physical Education.
4. Pollan also joked that the cows in California are happy because they're high on drugs. As a Wisconsin couple who hates the "Happy cows come from California" commercials and all of their hypocrisy, we really appreciated that one.
5. Pollan also pointed out that the food industry has created two problems by taking cows off of the farm and putting them onto feedlots: (1)manure has become toxic with no place to go, and (2) chemical fertilizers are now needed on fields. It used to be that the manure could be used as the fertilizer.
6. It takes 28 ounces of petroleum to produce one Big Mac meal ~ talk about guzzling fuel!
7. Research shows that for every 60 dollars put into a garden, 200 dollars worth of produce is harvested.
The speech was amazing, we felt moved to act, and we even got our books signed!
On Sunday, we drove over to Viroqua, WI to attend Harmony Valley Farm's Harvest Party of 2009. Once there, we hopped on the wagon for a hayride around the fields. Andy and I picked pounds of UW-Roaster peppers to roast and freeze for the winter and an equal amount of jalapenos to be made into hot pepper jelly (very yummy served over cream cheese on a cracker!). Of course, no Harvest Party would be complete without the hunt for the perfect carving pumpkins.
Once back, members enjoyed a pig roast with a potluck of delicious salads, desserts, and cheeses. Harmony Valley also provided Maple Iced Lattes. Wow~ that hit the spot on a crisp fall day!