I know that I was assigned many classical literature books in high school or college but sometimes a book has to find you before you can find yourself in the book. So over the last year or so…since I became a gypsy mama and gave up the suck your brain out of your head box otherwise known as the television, I have revisited some classics.
I just completed reading John Steinbeck’s, “Grapes of Wrath” and so many things are standing out to me in this book. I have been reading passages out of the book to my children. Not the passages that tell the story of the Joad family but the passages where Steinbeck talks about what is happening with the small family farms during the 1930’s. The passages where Steinbeck comments on the farming industry. While reading these passages and rereading them I am coming to the realization that this is the time period when the concept of “factory farms” starts. This is when it all began….and now we are coming full circle and starting to see the impact of what has been happening over the last eighty years or more.
This book was a pretty big hit when it was published and a lot of folks were pretty upset with Steinbeck’s commentary. This is a story about the great depression that took place in the 1930’s but it’s also about the beginning of factory farming, the beginning of the disconnect between man and earth and food. Did anyone else get this then? Have all the people that have been reading this great piece of literature taken note of this? And if we did notice why has it taken us so long to do something about it?
The food movement that is happening in this country is one of the most important issues we face today. Food is what sustains us, food is what nourishes us, food brings us together when we celebrate and when we mourn. The energy that goes into how food is grown comes to us when we eat it and through us. No wonder so many people are on anti-depressants. The attitude and the intent behind the growing of the food all the way to the preparation and the serving of the food is some powerful stuff.
I want to put a passage from the book here for you to read:
From "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck
He loved the land no more than the bank loved the land. He could admire the tractor - its machined surfaces, its surge of power, the roar of its detonating cylinders; but it was not his tractor. Behind the tractor rolled the shining disks, cutting the earth with blades -- not plowing but surgery, pushing the cut earth to the right where the second row of disks cut it and pushed it to the left; slicing blades shining, polished by the cut earth. And pulled behind the disks, the harrows combing with iron teeth so that the little clods broke up and the earth lay smooth. Behind the harrows, the long seeders -- twelve curved iron penes erected in the foundry, orgasms set by gears, raping methodically, raping without passion. The driver sat in his iron seat and he was proud of the straight lines he did not will, proud of the tractor he did not own or love, proud of the power he could not control. And when that crop grew, and was harvested, no man had crumbled a hot clod in his fingers and let the earth sift past his fingertips. No man had touched the seed, or lusted for the growth. Men ate what they had not raised, had no connection with the bread. The land bore under iron, and under iron gradually died; for it was not loved or hated, it had no prayers or curses.
Passionless. Loveless. Factory farms are not about love or passion. They are only about profits...the bottom line, regardless of the true costs. Local small farmers are passionate about what they do…sure they want to make a profit, after all they must generate an income too but they do it with thought to the land, thought for the sustenance they provide. It is done with intent and reverence. Talk to a local producer at the farm market…they have passion in their eyes, in their voice and in their hearts. Over the past year or so we have met many local, sustainable agriculture farmers. Real farmers…from Joel Salatin to Jason Mann and I am telling you these are the people we want growing our food!
Folks who care about the kind of food they help to co-create. Personally this gypsy mama & her brood went from being a conventional processed food family to basically 100% organic. Always searching for local sustainable agriculture while we're on the road. We went from eating at the arches to vowing never to eat fast food again…ever.
At this time of Thanksgiving when we are all poised to gather for a meal that has so much thought and intent that goes into the planning and the preparation, I pause to reflect the gratitiude that I have for the food. Consider the passion, consider the love, consider the intent.