I was amused and upset a while back when the local daily saw fit to give major headline news coverage to a newly opened organic farm in Rutherford. This is news? Well, OK. As I used to say, if it weren't for Sonoma County, Napa couldn't cook lunch! So the addition of a thoughtfully tended plot amid the moguls and monoculture certainly adds something valuable. Now, Napa County agricultural commissioner Dave Whitmer, with support from the local Farm Bureau as well as grape growers, vintners and something called the Napa Local Food Group, are all talking about ways to rebalance the mix even more by highlighting the near ubiquity of kitchen gardens on winery lands, often only used for staff meals and special events. Many folks think it might be a great idea to grow and sell more of those colorful fruits and veggies at farm stands along the vinery-cultural highway.But here's the rub: Are Round Up-tidied pathways going to lead us towards something good to eat?
This is a fascinating moment for food in America. A half-billion factory farm eggs had to be scrambled because they were salmonella-infested. Beef producers are fighting common-sense safety regulations while questionable patties are recalled for the wrong sort of E. coli. Organic strawberries have finally been certified as definitely more nutritious.
It's certainly all a good conversation and a worthy battle for what we eat. We've finally managed to put food at the top of our "To Know and to Do" lists where it belongs, but just how far will trendy, hipster farmers, gossipy food bloggers and TV-ready chefs take us? Do we have the will and the time to really dig in—go ahead and embrace the expression—and calm down? Does the current economy give us much of a choice?
The answer is in the action, and the time is certainly now. A major cultural recalibration is in full swing, and this year's harvest season is more precious and profound than many before, with a clear road map to what lies ahead. Savor every berry. Hug a farmer twice, and maybe get some chickens for the backyard. Celebrate every meal with dear family and real friends. And perhaps even help demystify nature for a few folks here and there.