Knowledge does not automatically result in action. We know we should not eat certain foods. We know we should exercise more. And yet often we are not motivated to do what our brain tells us we should do.
On the other hand, we are sometimes motivated to do things that our brain would never approve. An example would be those who rushed toward the blast in Boston to rescue others out of concern, duty, and affection.
For many consumers, purchasing local food may begin as an act of knowledge. We have heard national food recalls, we fear mad cow disease, etc., and we want to know more about how our food is raised. The act of purchasing local food may also come out of curiosity. We hear that a certain farmers’ market is a pleasurable experience and we decide to try it out. We may even buy from a local farmer because we have learned that local food purchases help the local economy. But what brings us back to the farmers’ market, the CSA, the farm stand, is an act of affection.
Twentieth century philosopher said that “To settle in a place is to accept the responsibility for creating it.” In a society where most people move every five years, it is harder to find people willing to accept a role in the place where they live. Most are consumers of community services, not builders of community. However, the desire to belong and to be part of a vibrant caring community is strong in most people. Within that desire lies room for affection.
Those in our community who have chosen to supply food to the table realize the high start-up costs, the challenges of weather, the competition by industrial and foreign competitors, and lack of viable insurance protection. Many are drawn to farming to witness the miracle of the seed, to spend their days tending farm animals, to work outdoors, and to work independently. Those who stick with it, do it out of affection for their farm, for their family, and for their customers.
When we don’t settle in a community, we don’t know most of the people. When my dad was growing up in Calvert County, he said that if he went to Prince Frederick and he didn’t recognize someone, he would ask who it was. That is no longer the case. When I go to Prince Frederick, I am pleased if I recognize more than a few people at the big stores. However, when I go to the mom and pop stores, the roadside stands, and the North Beach Farmers Market, it feels like old home week. Farmers need to be able to tell their stories, such as why they farm and the way they farm, so that customers can get to know them. At farmers’ markets, CSA pickups, and roadside stands, farmers can greet their customers, share a smile and a handshake, and perhaps chat. Fortunately, there are also many forms of social media that can help complete the “stories”, such as websites, facebook, blogs, and twitter feeds.
Locally sourced food is fresher. Farmers can grow varieties for flavor rather than shelf life. Buying locally sourced food creates jobs and helps the local economy. However, farmer success is based on community support and affection! And, quoting Wendell Berry, “It is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.”