Michael Pollan Speech

Today, Paco and I went to Indianapolis to hear Michael Pollan speak.  If you would like to know more about his work, here you go: http://michaelpollan.com/   I didn’t expect to hear a lot that I did not already know, but I very much wanted to hear and meet Pollan–someone I admire greatly and wanted to thank personally.

Not long after we moved to the country, I was listening to an audiobook called The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  I remember exactly where I was driving when I heard  that there are 37 ingredients in a Chicken McNugget, that one of them is butane, and 13 of them are derived from corn.  I was already no fan of the McNugget, but that information was transformational to me.   To me, that is the kind of information that you can’t ignore.  My then 1-year-old was in the back seat and I knew that I needed to kn0w and do a lot more in order to feed her safe and healthy food.  I wasn’t feeding her fast food, but if a McNugget has 37 ingredients, what about everything else?   After finishing both Pollan’s book and Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I said goodbye to the ease of buying “big organic” products at supermarkets and haven’t looked back. 

I have learned a lot and I keep at it.  It’s not all about the food.  It may have started there, but now I know that the process is as important, (perhaps more important), than the product.  Our family has found balance with our increasingly agrarian life.  The work that goes into producing, locating, and teaching about local, healthy food is good work.  The kind of work that you can be proud of at the end of the day.  We are working hard and our souls are satisfied. 

 Every week that I am able to spend 20 minutes teaching kindergartener how and why they should grow food and know farmers, I know that I am making an investment in a brighter future for them and all of us.   Paco and I know that every time we add a new local supplier to our restaurant “family,” we are doing good work. 

Here are the points in today’s speech that I walked away with:

We need to start defining health not as the health of an individual body but as the health of the soil + animals + humans + plants.  Imagine if we and our governments did define health this way.  Of course they are all related.  The whole is only ever a sum of its parts.  We experience this daily at our farm.  Our health is directly tied to the health of our soil, the animals, and the plants. I know that the “combined health” of our farm is also directly related to our spiritual health.  So why is man working so vehemently to create artificial human “health” at the cost of the soil, animals, and plants? 

He spoke a bit about the new health care reform and its potential to greatly improve true health.  The current model motivates insurers to exclude higher risk individuals.  If everyone must be insured, insurers will be invested in improving overall health.  There are already some models out there–heart patients being prescribed healthy food instead of drugs and more drugs. 

When someone asked about eating animals, he paraphrased Wendell Berry.  Diversified, smaller farms were a perfect balance between animals producing fertilizer and plants feeding animals.  It’s nature’s brilliance, at it’s finest.  Industrial farming split the two apart in order to make the products as plentiful and cheap as possible.  A perfect solution has become 2 major problems which we have “solved” by dumping in lots of chemicals, cutting “corners” that circumvent safety and morality. 

You don’t have to look farther than a Chicken McNugget to see the evidence. 

Humans, being omnivores, have a natural place in the cycle of animals to fertilizer to plants to animals.  We harvest both plants and protein from that cycle and have the responsibility to do it well and in moderation.

At the end of his talk, I told him thank you.  I told him that hearing about 37 ingredients in a Chicken McNugget has led me to a place where I can teach kindergarteners about real food.  I wanted him to hear from me that he helped inspire good work.