Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 23

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 2 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE your food dollar goes to the farmer. A lot of the rest of it is getting it from farm to your table—the processing, the packaging, the marketing, the advertising. I don’t know if I’ll have time today to go to the Oregon farmers’ market, but more of that food dollar being paid there goes into the pocket of the farmer than when you’re going to most supermarkets. There are new models out there. But think about that for the farmer: they’re not seeing a whole lot of your money vis-à-vis the dollars you’re spending at the grocery store. BHG: What are the conditions on a lot of US farms for produce and meatraising? MF: Again, it completely depends. Most of the farms that provide the majority of the food we consume either directly or indirectly are big. I have a friend whose family farm in Western Kansas is thousands of acres big, and their massive few-hundred-thousand-dollar tractor and combine has air conditioning, television, GPS, and all the rest. It’s so amazing because the satellite technology measures the moisture in the soil, and they’re being so specific—precision agriculture—with how much fertilizer they apply when and where based on the conditions. That’s how we grow most of our corn. That’s how we grow most of our rice. That’s how we grow most of the row crops. But, much of produce comes from just south in California. The Central Valley is an amazingly rich and abundant and diverse place of agriculture. When I did the food and justice Passover Seder at the US Department of Agriculture two nights ago, I had apples from First Fruits Orchard outside of Yakima, Washington, and I know the orchard owners: Ralph and Cheryl and their daughter Suzanne and their son-in-law Roger. That was pretty cool to be able to tell the folks who the growers were as we ate the apples together. You don’t always get that. We can buy almost anything we want at the store. But it means that it’s a lot more disconnected than it used to be. BHG: Dr. Kolmes, Mr. Finberg just shared with us about the massive scale of many of our farms and the absolute precision required to grow our crops. Could you share with us a little bit about the effects of that massive precision on the health of our food? What is the result of all those fertilizers and so on on the food we eat? Steven Kolmes: Well, it certainly depends on the food that you’re talking about. If you’re talking about conventional food and vegetable products, then you’re probably looking at some low-level herbicide residue or some lowlevel pesticide residue. It very much depends on what crop it is. Some are much more likely to have that sort of material on them. I think in terms of large scale production, the arena in which you see the greatest impact on 20