The National Archives connects the dots between red, white, and blue and local foods—and modern industrial agriculture
An AP story that ran in yesterday's Boston Globe and Washington Post, among other places, brings the heartening news that people who started looking to grow their own food as part of the recession are keeping it up, as a measure of security in an uncertain world. The study cites a sharp increase in both plans to grow food and seed sales:
Forty-three million American households planned to grow at least some of their own food in 2009, a 19 percent increase from the estimated 36 million who did the year before, said the National Gardening Association, citing the most recent figures available....Seed supplier W. Atlee Burpee & Co. said its sales of vegetables seeds and starter plants have jumped substantially in the past several years, with 30 percent growth in 2009, 15 percent to 20 percent growth last year and another bump in March.
You can credit the locavore movement, or Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I reviewed here (and for which I will always feel burning shame that I called it "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral" and the error made it into the printed version). You can credit Michelle Obama and Sam Kass (though he won't take credit) for planting a garden on the White House lawn to which they have invited educators, schoolchidren, and chefs from all over the country, as Michel Nischan wrote about for us here. You can credit, though that might not be the best word, the continuingly frightening economy that my esteemed colleague Don Peck wrote about too lucidly for comfort in our cover story last year.
Or you can credit ... Uncle Sam. The pre-bailout, workbooted Uncle Sam, the one who called for planting vegetable gardens "to cut food costs" in a colorful 1925 poster at the opening of the new National Archives exhibition "What's Cooking, Uncle Sam?" that I got to visit on opening day, and had the privilege of being shown around by the curator, Alice Kamps. The real, if unspoken, narrative of the exhibition is the progression from a primarily rural and agricultural economy to an urban, industrialized one in which people no longer raised their own food, and industries pressured the government to buy what the food industry produced. The show takes note of the passage in 1933 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which first instituted government farm subsidies, but says little about the controversy that has never abated and will be such a lightning rod that some people are already predicting long delays for the next Farm Bill