Last month, I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Prairie Festival at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. It was a tremendous event and after a full day of amazing speakers, I waited in line to get a book signed by Wendell Berry. I count myself among the most serious of Wendell Berry fans, and I was both excited and little nervous to meet him. What if I couldn’t find anything clever to say? Or what if he wasn’t as full of gravitas as I had hoped? But finally I made it up there.
After my colleague Johanna Dyer and I introduced ourselves and he signed our books, we mentioned the work we are doing here in New York to encourage the production and consumption of more sustainable food. He smiled at us and said, “Well, you girls just keep on.” We thanked him and left clutching our books, but that phrase has really stuck with me.
Today on National Food Day, I find myself thinking of how it speaks to the food movement. We are certainly up against some formidable odds as we try to produce enough food to feed a growing planet without wrecking our health or the environment. And as Michael Pollan recently noted, we need to harness our power to be a political force and prove ourselves worthy of being called a food movement. Still, it feels like we’re making really progress.
There are signs of success and reasons to feel hopeful all around. I feel hopeful about ending the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. I feel hopeful that we are engaging in a national political discussion on what is in our food because of California’s Prop 37. I feel hopeful that Chipotle signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers on labor conditions and wages for farm workers. I feel hopeful that things are moving in the right direction.
We’ve no doubt got a ways to go. Still, on this National Food Day, I feel hopeful that we’ll all “keep on” in this fight to fix our food system. To quote Wendell one more time: “No matter how bad things get, a person of good will and some ability can always do something to make it a little better.”