Bridging the Gap Between Slow Food and Mass Consumption
Oct 16, 2014
“Do you want fries with that?” may be a universally recognized fast-food saying, but it’s the Slow Food trend that’s catching on with consumers.
The Slow Food movement began in 1986 as the brainchild of Carlo Perini, who realized that society wanted to create a more sustainable food ecosystem. Slow Food strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisines, promote local farming, and champion unprocessed “whole” foods.
Since then, the slow- and fast-food industries have been at odds, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The agriculture community has the power to bridge the gap between the Slow Food movement and the cry for mass production to feed the world.
In the battle between Big Ag and small farming, it’s important to realize that no one side is definitively right. These are two very different approaches to two very different issues.
If individual consumers do want the option to choose exactly where and how their food is grown, they should have the opportunity to do so. There are as many different approaches to agriculture as there are places in the world, and the Slow Food movement recognizes this. Farming is a complex ecosystem, and Slow Food celebrates the local way of doing things so that it fits seamlessly into the ecosystem.
On the other hand, with the growing population and the expanding middle class in emerging markets, we face big challenges when it comes to feeding our growing world. The media is quick to praise small farmers for bringing the community together, but when I went on an ag tour in Kansas, I saw a huge amount of support for local coming from big farms. And with operations spanning 15,000 acres or more, Big Ag nurtures a community in its own way.
To achieve better understanding on both sides, we need to engage in a proper dialogue about the issues that matter to farmers and consumers. Consumer groups constantly attack Big Ag for its processes, but buying local and organic isn’t sustainable or realistic for everyone — especially in a society that expects every fruit and vegetable to be available year-round.
The reality is, there’s room for all types of farmers. But to make it work, consumers have to take responsibility and recognize reasonable limits for all parties. Consumers are used to only thinking about their own experiences, but we need all parties from ag stakeholders to governmental organizations to understand the intricacies of the problems farmers are trying to solve.
For that to happen, we need to stop the misinformation, manage government involvement, and enforce reasonable limits that both the consumer and the farmer can live with.
For all ag, transparency is paramount. Consumers have to feel like they can trust organizations to provide them with the food they want, so it’s vital to communicate openly about farm operations and growing methods.
As much flack as Big Ag receives, these farmers are actually making great strides toward sustainability and collaboration on making food more nutritious. Think about it: Farm and ranch families make up only 2 percent of the U.S. population. That 2 percent grows enough food for all of us, yet the public has been quick to demonize the large-scale farmer and ag-related companies. Big Ag includes all these folks, and they are working hard to bridge the gap. Do what you can to support all of them.
When all parties are invested in helping feed our world in a more sustainable and collaborative way, everyone wins. It won’t happen overnight, but consumers will soon see that Big Ag and Slow Food both have their place in the market.