Focus on Food: Wow! Even Dylan Ratigan gets it!

Those of us in the trenches have long known that it all comes down to food: what kind, who grows and who controls what we put in our stomachs.

Apple-HandsYesterday, I attended the 20th Anniversary Celebration for the Bloomington ecocenter, a community vortex that has been known by several names in the past 20 years and has spawned myriads of ideas, projects, long and short term experiments in environmentally sustainable community life. Of course, starting with food. At first, the center existed to support CSAs, the three of them then sprouting up here. (Now there are so many CSAs that a recently formed Local Growers Guild coordinates their offerings.) Over the years the ecocenter has morphed and morphed and morphed, settling and resettling in one downtown office after another, activists coming in and out over the years, all of them community-minded, interested in various aspects of sustainability: food, water, forest preservation, natural building, energy, social justice, and so on. The 20th anniversary celebration brought out about 60 people, and we spent our time laughing and remembering how it was “back then,” who was involved in what and why and for how long.

What struck me most of all, was how vital and long-lived the seed that started this whole endeavor, which has been nurtured all along by the generosity, imagination and endurance of two women, Lucille Bertuccio and Christine Glaser. Their dialogue in front of us as they tried to offer a powerpoint presentation that, unfortunately, didn’t contain nearly enough photos (“we were always too busy with the projects to take photos!”), but lots of reminiscences and laughs illustrated remarkably the experimental nature of this little center of community life, and how it has spawned project after project with no signs of stopping. See The Bike Project and SIREN for examples of current projects that are proving themselves viable as time goes on.

No longer fringe, the fundamental focus on locally-grown food that ignited this whole endeavor 20 years ago here in Bloomington Indiana is going mainstream. Even Dylan Ratigan gets it.


Washington D.C. is a strange place to be seized by the idea that America’s strength rests in small communities and that this strength is powered by our connection to food.

Our capital is the nerve center of big ideas and policy decisions that affect billions of people around the world. And, while the restaurants are top notch, there probably isn’t enough food grown in the city to feed one large family.

But as I traveled with the Archipleys, Maj. General Mel Spiese and his wife Filomena, University of Vermont’s Dr. Jeffrey Spees, and VSAT graduates to Congressional offices, meetings with officials like USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and even to our White House, where the group helped the First Lady plant the White House garden, the connection of community and food became clear as day.

A healthy relationship with the way we produce and consume our food is the foundation of our nation and determinative to the quality of our lives.

America’s finest agrarian writer, Wendell Berry, once wrote, “Anybody interested in solving, rather than profiting from, the problems of food production and distribution will see that in the long run the safest food supply is a local food supply, not a supply that is dependent on a global economy. Nations and regions within nations must be left free — and should be encouraged — to develop the local food economies that best suit local needs and local conditions.”

In these meetings while listening to the concerns of the veteran-farmers, I came to realize that much of what our leaders can do is turn loose the reins and start enabling citizens — rather than corporations — to feed each other.

And as so many of our nation steps off of its war footing in the Middle East, we also have this perfect time to stop the disastrous war against our soil and our citizens, who are ultimately the victims of bad food policy.

Food is the foundation of life. It has defined every moment of our existence. It is the path to our salvation and our ruin, and is the portal to family, energy and health.

Yes, our trip to Washington, in the most narrow terms, was to raise awareness of the incredibly high capacity our vets have to solve our country’s core problems (like replacing a generation of farmers who average 60 years old), but my eyes have been opened once again by this special group of individuals.

An awakening is happening in America, and it is as simple as creating jobs that solve our actual needs and, in the process, restore the very fabric of our own bodies and our relationship with the very planet we inhabit.

That is the real message we brought to Washington D.C. this week and that is the message our high capacity veteran leaders are delivering to the nation they love every day.

As we heal ourselves, we heal each other.

Onward and upward,


Dylan’s Weekly Notes For Friday, April 5, 2013

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1 Response to Focus on Food: Wow! Even Dylan Ratigan gets it!

  1. Susan McElroy says:

    Let’s not forget the humble foods that grow unbidden and mostly unwanted in our urban/suburban communities. As I wait for my lettuce to grow, hubby and I are having lush salads of miner’s lettuce, chickweed, spring dandelion greens and flowers, violet leaves and flowers, and other “weeds” all picked from our property edges and driveway. Nature takes care of us with simple wild foods, too, and encourages us to take care of each other by example of her bounty. Even if you think you are too busy to plant a tiny garden, I’ll be you can find a host of nutritional plants right in your yard, ripe for the picking!

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