Thursday, February 15, 2007

Signs and Symbols

People always ask me if the local grain initiative is about food security. As much as issues of food security are related to re-localizing parts of the food system then the answer is yes. But there is something much more fundamental at work and the theory, at least what I am proposing, looks like this:

If Local food is about healthy relationships and motivated community building, both with other humans and with the surrounding ecology, then we need to be looking at the signs and symbols that represent this happening. Grains were the first cultivated crops that brought groups of people together and grain cultivation and processing became 'placed-based' through this activity. Food production took place somewhere specific and people could identify with this. Growing local grain will not provide all the food needs even for a small, local population like Southwestern B.C. But growing grain is a symbolic action- one that recognizes the role grain played in building place based, human communities around food production and it signals that the root link between food production and human societies is not lost, hidden or forgotten. Grain as a sign of a coming food era and grain as a symbol of renewal and collective history is what this growing is all about. This link cannot be forgotten simply because we have come to believe that grain production needs to be large scale. Signs and symbols are powerful since they stand for and represent something-purposeful, place based cultivation of food and community. Cultivating grain somewhere meant that we were here to stay, to nurture and to experience a relationship with a place through the growing cycle. The buzz about local eating, especially in southwestern B.C. is amazing and I am very supportive of it and the role it plays. But I believe that a local diet to build community could be complemented by the symbolic action of growing grain. It signals a new and exciting time for food, the planet and community.


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