Joel Salatin of Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Inc. fame is profiledin the November edition of The American Conservative. Mr. Salatin and his 500 acre Polyface Farm in Virginia is one of the centerpieces of Michael Pollan's reporting on sustainable alternatives to the massive industrial food complex. But here's the thing, this darling of the Berkeley/Whole Foods/Prius crowd is a dyed in the wool conservative and a Bob Jones University graduate to boot. He refers to himself as a “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist lunatic.”
These quotes from the article caught my attention:
He wants a big-tent local-food movement. While two decades ago, most customers at his farm store were “liberal, hippie, tree-hugger types,” he now estimates that an even number are traditional and libertarian conservatives. Surveying his customer parking lot, Salatin says, “It’s absolutely typical to have three Obama bumper stickers alongside three that say, ‘Abortion stops a beating heart.’” He is encouraged by the movement’s broad appeal, but laments that he cannot convince more of his fellow churchgoers not to “stop for happy meals on the way home from the pro-life rally."
Salatin, who grew up going to natural- food stores, found this hostility from the Right troubling. Today, he is delighted that so many conservatives have joined what he calls the “heritage food movement.” (He chuckles, admitting that this is a subtle “slam” at the Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks that he claims are in bed with agribusiness.) As for Bob Jones, it has evidently changed its outlook. The university recently honored Salatin as “alumnus of the year.”
Concerns about food short-circuit political divides in some wonderfully mischevious ways. Farmers' Markets may be the most politically diverse gathering in the community, with Glenn Beck conspiracy theorists rubbing shoulders with neo-hippie peace activists. The recent Whole Foods CEO curfluffle highlighted some of this diversity and forced the question, "Is it OK for conservatives and liberals, who disagree on so much, to agree on food and work together in that agreement?"
I sure hope so. In today's intense, hyped up political landscape, a good potluck with arugala and country style pork ribs (and of course grandma's jello salad) could do us a lot of good. There's something about gathering around food that makes us more human.