An essay on how in the last 10 years, the whisper “Where does our food come from?” has become a roar.
I was not alone. In the years since I bought the cabin, what started out as a shy whisper—“Where does this food come from?”—has become a conversation, a chant, and now almost a roar. Farmers’ markets, once the province of rural communities, have migrated into urban parks, doubling in number since 2002 and growing by 17 percent last year alone. Country of origin labeling has become mandatory for meats and fish, fruits, vegetables and many nuts. “Local” has become the new “gourmet,” “farm-to-table” the mantra of the star chef. Hippie health-food stores have evolved into Whole Foods übermarkets that celebrate sustainability.
We care now not only where our food comes from, but also who produced it and how. The Fair Trade USA certification mark, established in 1998 to help assure eco-friendly practices and fair and ethical treatment of farmers in developing countries, now appears on more than 11,000 products and doubled in usage in 2010.
The National Organic Program, in its infancy in 2002, now certifies more than 28,380 producers worldwide. Milk produced without growth hormones can now be labeled rBST-free. And if California and more than 20 other states succeed in their legal battles, genetically modified foods may soon be labeled as such.
That first year in my new home, though, none of this existed.