Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


I want to call attention to an op-ed by Mark Bittman in the New York Times last week, headlined “What Is the Purpose of Society?” because it’s particularly incisive. He rightly asks us to reconsider how we think about the production and distribution of our food. He calls on us to ask the right questions: What is the purpose of agriculture? And he asks that we come to a common agreement on what that purpose is.

He writes:

“… [I]s contemporary American agriculture a system for nourishing people and providing a livelihood for farmers? Or is it one for denuding the nation’s topsoil while poisoning land, water, workers and consumers and enriching corporations? Our collective actions would indicate that our principles favor the latter; that has to change.

“…[i]f we had a national agreement that food is not just a commodity, a way to make money, but instead a way to nourish people and the planet and a means to safeguard our future, we could begin to reconfigure the system for that purpose.

“[C]orporations and not governments … are determining how the world works. As unrepresentative as government might seem right now, there is at least a chance of improving it, whereas corporations will always act in their own interests.”

In other words, what we need is clear thinking and, more important, better leaders, leaders who are not beholden to Big Money.

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© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.




6 Wonderful responses to “Beyond Food”

  • Kasha @ The FarmGirl Cooks

    “In other words, what we need is clear thinking and more important, better leaders, leaders who are not beholden to Big Money.”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if all the smaller guys (and gals) with pure intentions to make an honest living feeding our nation could rise up and beat them at their own game?

    • Brian Vo

      Hear hear. It’s a damn shame that the way we’ve structured incentives (and disincentives) in this country around agriculture make it so damn risky to be a small farmer.

  • Jeannie

    Sadly, in the U.S., you are a hero if you choose the cheapest product and spend the least money. I have a favorite green smoothie shop and a colleague(we were both paid the same) at a temporary job I had said,” I would love one but they are so expensive” and indirectly guilted me about spending so much money on food. I could have gone on about the labor to make it, the quality of the ingredients and the nutrition, versus the cheap chinese fast food they were eating.

    Obviously not the people who read your books or who comment here. The majority of people in this country do not “critically think” about their food and food production and sales is all about cheap.

    Cheap is what the United States was built on. I am sorry to be so doomy and gloomy but I don’t think this attitude will ever change.

  • Tony

    Somehow, I don’t see my congressman teaching us how to cook vegetables.

    The majority of the population is never going to prefer a brussels sprout over a Dorito. It is a corporation’s right to make the best tasting Dorito possible. Even if corn subsidies stopped and brussels sprout subsidies began, I still think Doritos would win. Actually, we’d probably end up with Doritos made with cabbage

  • Bob

    Better leaders? Yeah. Moreover, I wonder if this would be a “non-issue” if the government were limited, as it was intended, instead of the tyrannical behemoth we now live under? Just wondering.


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