The tiny, 46-page book (published by Rodale and available online and
at your local Indie) reprints the speech along with color photographs
and a foreword by Wendell Berry and afterword by Eric Schlosser.
Grist asked me some questions about it.
What sticks out to you most in this speech/book? What surprised you? What do you most hope the reader comes away with?
I attended the meeting at which Prince Charles spoke and
was impressed at the time by his broad overview and understanding of the
problems inherent in industrial food and the implications of those
problems. He described himself as a farmer, which was not exactly how I
had imagined him. It's impressive that someone of his stature cares
about these issues and is willing to go on record promoting a healthier
Most Americans are probably not aware that Prince Charles is
an organic farmer and long-term advocate of sustainable food. What do
you think the ultimate value of hearing such an urgent message about
the need to change our food system from him? In other words: Do you
think it will have more weight/reach coming from him than, say, Michael
Pollan or Alice Waters?
Americans in general love royalty. Whether food movement
participants care about royalty is a different matter. I can't imagine
anyone in America having more weight than Michael Pollan and Alice
Waters but it's great to have Michelle Obama and now the Prince on our
On a related note, the food movement has been working to
free itself of the "elitist" charges for years? How do you think
inviting one of the true elite (i.e. he grew up in a working castle!) to
speak about these issues impacts the discussion?
I don't know anyone in the food movement who isn't
actively concerned and working hard to make healthy food available to
everyone, rich and poor alike. I see the food movement as an important
player in efforts to reduce income inequities. People will care whether
the Prince has anything to say about this or not depending on their
feelings about celebrities in general and royalty in particular.
In the book, Prince Charles says "farmers are better off
using intensive methods and where consumers who would prefer to
buy sustainably produced food are unable to do so because of the
price. There are many producers and consumers who want to do the right
thing but, as things stand, 'doing the right thing' is penalized." What,
in your opinion, would it take to reverse this predicament?
This is a matter of public policy. Our agricultural
support system rewards big, intensive, and commodities like corn and
soybeans. It barely acknowledges small, sustainable, and "specialty" (translation: fruits and vegetables). Policy is a matter of political
will and can be changed.
Prince Charles also suggests that it's time to "re-assess what
has become a fundamental aspect of our entire economic model.... Because we
cannot possibly maintain the approach in the long-term if we continue to
consume our planet as rapaciously as we are doing. Capitalism depends
upon capital, but our capital ultimately depends upon the health of
Nature's capital. Whether we like it or not, the two are in fact
inseparable." What role do you think can food play in re-assessing this
Food is such a good way to introduce people to every one
of these concepts: capitalism, depletion of natural resources, and
climate change, for that matter. At NYU, we explain what food studies
is about by saying that food is a lens through which to view, analyze,
and work to improve the most important problems facing societies today. I can hardly think of a social problem that is not linked to food in
some way. That's what makes it fun to teach. It's also what makes the
food movement so important.
This post also appears on Food Politics, an Atlantic partner site.