In a State of Food Choice
I recently vacationed in California’s central coastal region. While wine country was our target destination, it’s difficult to visit the nation’s top agricultural state without devoting some thought to the U.S. food system. After surviving the Los Angeles freeways, we quickly got off the beaten path and drove north through farm country.
Instead of the ubiquitous corn, soybean and wheat fields we’re accustomed to in the Midwest we drove by countless vegetable fields, as well as groves of fruit and nut trees. We also were among the more than 10,000 people to attend the weekly farmers market in downtown San Luis Obispo. More than 70 area farmers put their produce on display – mounds of every fruit and vegetable imaginable; tables of freshly cut herbs and flowers; refrigerated trailers of fresh cuts of meat; and a wide variety of freshly-made cheeses.
Later, while taking pictures of an especially beautiful vineyard, I noticed a lone olive tree growing in a roadside ditch. Much of its fruit lay on ground where it had fallen, with nobody to enjoy the harvest. How great would it be to have an olive tree in your backyard?
For people who witness this food-production miracle on a daily basis it might be understandable that they think everybody should eat this way. Of course, that’s impossible. Those of us in colder climes are thankful that California and other year-round food growers can provide fruits and vegetables so a balanced diet is possible regardless of the season.
The local artisans who bring their harvest to markets like the one we visited and others throughout the state are to be admired. But can’t we have just as much admiration for the scientists who developed the processing methods that allow us to enjoy these food products year-round? Or the agronomists developing new plant varieties that help crops better survive even a horrible drought like we experienced this year?
The food choice options Californians and many of us have today are truly spectacular. So too are the many different people, from the lab to the field to the processors, who make these foods possible.
Did I mention that the wine was also great?
Posted by Cliff.