Massachusetts Food Day 2012 has a special ring to it. It is the day that I will witness the unfolding of the vision of what Food Day means to hundreds of organizers working to bring it to “harvest” across the state. As the coordinator for the state’s Food Day efforts, I am in awe of the passionate community groups,individuals, students, families, food advocates and organizations who are stepping up to take a more active role with decisions about our local food system. Food Day celebrations across the state, and nation, will come in many shapes and forms, as diverse as the communities who are impacted by our local and national food systems…in other words, all communities. The Department of Agricultural Resources, MDAR, was asked to participate and oversee the Food Day coordination in 2011, because of the work we do, it was a natural fit. Below is MDAR’s Food Day statement, written by former Commissioner Scott Soares, highlighting why everyday is Food Day.
Food Day in Massachusetts gives us an opportunity to highlight all that is being done to support greater and equitable access to locally grown products and the continued growth and development of a sustainable agricultural economy.
It bridges rural and urban communities by providing opportunities to recognize the significant contributions that agriculture makes to our economy, our community characteristics, and our physical and mental health. Importantly, it also gives us the opportunity to recognize and support the great and necessary diversity of agriculture in our Commonwealth; in all its production forms and growing methods. As the agricultural axiom ‘don’t put all of your eggs in one basket’ suggests, diversity is in fact an insurance program for sustainable agriculture, not only by allowing farmers to weather the ever changing market conditions and influences that could mean profit or foreclosure but also to meet increasing consumer demand for broader selections of ALL agricultural products from vegetable to fruit to dairy to livestock to poultry. Furthermore, for states like Massachusetts that are blessed with access to some of the most productive fisheries resources in the world, we also must include fish and seafood in the food system equation for that primary industry’s similarly significant contributions to physical and economic health.
Indeed, the greater and more equitable access that we strive to promote is important for our economic and our physical health. Such access allows healthy communities in the broadest terms, across all age groups and down to every individual community member. But we must also promote and support it from “soil to supper”, “farm to fork”, “farmer to consumer”. Otherwise, we increase demand beyond production capacity and based on high population densities we force unsustainable distribution systems that are subject to global influences on what is currently a petroleum based industry. Furthermore, the absence of strong and secure local food systems creates a need for increased processed shelf stable food products that have been implicated in poor health outcomes. Nonetheless, we must recognize the important contributions that all farmers make and further recognize that the American farmer strives to meet consumer demand and has time and time again demonstrated their capacity to produce the products that we all ask for. We simply need to ask for them. As Michael Polan, author of books such as the Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, has stated, by our food selections we have the opportunity to ‘vote’ three times a day for what our food system should be. And after all, as Wendell Berry has so simply described, “eating is an agricultural act” which means that, whether we are farmers, fishers or consumers, we all have a active role in shaping our food system as well as the sustainability and characteristics of our agricultural identity.