Michael Pollan, Oprah and #Agchat


I missed Michael Pollan's appearance on Oprah today. The clip above with John Stewart probably gives you the gist of what he had to say. Even more interesting to me than what Pollan had to say is my growing awareness of how the farming community, at least a significant portion of it, really resents that Michael Pollan is so prominent in telling the story of agriculture. There is a growing sentiment that farmers should be the one's to tell their own story. See the Twitter response below for a sense of how some farmers feel about it.

@RadicalOmnivore No one said farmers are good communicators, that is the problem, we don't talk about what we do, we just do it.

Don't believe evrythng u hear @Oprah about food & how it's produced. Talk 2 a farmer 2 hear the real story, we live it evryday. #agchat #mom

@Oprah, please invite farmers on to tell your viewers how we raise food & protect our livestock, Pollan doesn't raise food, we do. #agchat

DayAngus Dear @Oprah I am going out to help my daughter feed a balanced diet of grain & hay to her cattle. #agchat #meatcamp

I was introduced last week to the #agchat hashtag on Twitter when my recent posts on the American Farm Bureau and farmers (here and here) caught the attention of people in that conversation. I was surprised to find the following headline ricocheting all over Twitter and Facebook linking to my blog;

@Chrischinn: After the suicide of a dairy farmer, critic of #ag now understands "it's hard to be a farmer." http://bit.ly/84zpi3 #agchat

I'd never really thought of myself as a "critic" of the agricultural community but there it was, I was the repentant critic. I prefer to think of myself as an ag advocate but, oh well.

I do think they are on to something when those on #agchat talk about the importance of telling the story. In general us consumers live in the midst of fragmentation and part of what is happening in the local food movement is that we are seeking to recover the story of our food. In the midst of powerful forces at work in the marketplace that rely on storyless efficiencies and disconnected commodities, we're choosing to live into a new story of connection in relationships with the people that produce our food and consumer goods. We're peeling back the veneer of pastoral scenes on our food packages dreamed up by marketing departments, and we don't like some of what we're seeing. We want to know the stories of our farmers.

I was talking to a farmer friend yesterday, and he said the problem isn't the farmers, but rather the large corporations that are controlling the food supply. It's not the ranchers, but the massive feedlots scattered across the country owned by a few corporations. It's not the growers but the few corporations that have a stranglehold on the seed supply. I think he's on to something. Between the farmers who want to tell their story and the consumers who long to reweave the story of their consumer lives are corporations that want to control the story on both sides of the equation. I think I should stop here lest my blog ends up on #evilglobalcorporationchat on twitter. :)

Ultimately businesses will adapt to the demands of the consumers. We want to hear the stories of our farmers, and we want our farmers to hear our stories, why we want good clean healthy food. Let's get to work telling and listening and the corporations will follow.