Organic Consumers Association

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Entrepreneurs Will Disrupt the Future of Eating, Farming

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Investor perspective on hack dining

I grew up on a farm that nestles up against the coastal range on the western side of California's Central Valley, which spans some of the richest ground in the history of civilization. By rich I don't mean money-rich. Rather, I mean that provided you can access and apply water, the ground around where I grew up will yield more than 50 tons of tomatoes per acre.

As a boy, I helped my dad by spreading turkey manure in his organic walnut orchards, and when the sheep got loose did my part catching them. It comes naturally for me to visualize where artichokes and arugula are grown and where my lamb chops come from. But this is no longer the typical experience growing up in America. As our society has continued on the path of urbanization, people have lost that connection to the food they eat.

The secret sauce missing from the dining table is understanding where food comes from and what's really healthy and what's not. We live in a country where "chicken fingers" count as dinner and children ask: "Daddy, how many fingers does a chicken have?" Assuming you can even read the small print, food labels reads like pages from a chemistry text. Obesity coupled with horrific waste have become the norm, fueled in part by misinformation about which kinds of foods are healthy and why.

At the same time, many of this country's farmers are co-opted to meet consumer and industry demands that are out of line with the coming demand for healthier produce. Farmers end up planting the highest-yielding seed varietals and using the cheapest and most effective chemical pesticides and herbicides even if some of these practices are neither healthy nor sustainable. This has led to a lack of genetic diversity in our crops and has permanently damaged the environment. There has to be a better way.

I envision a future of dining where consumers-starting young!-are educated about the food they eat: what foods to eat, how the food got on their plate, and how our agriculture and food production systems affect the world in which we live. Do you have a kid who is a picky eater? The best way to get them to eat vegetables is to have them pick, or better yet, grow the lettuce or broccoli themselves. Kids, it turns out, love to be involved in growing and harvesting their own food. Even if that's not practical, have them join you at your local farmer's market. Educating diners (the younger the better) is only part of the fight.     
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