Freedom through Food

Freedom through Food

Food makes us free!

I am the great grandson of farmers. These were stout men and women who tirelessly worked dairy farms and grew corn and alfalfa to feed their livestock. They braved harsh winters and sizzling summers hoping and praying that their hard work would literally pay off and feed their families.  

I am proud of my hard working ancestors. The fact that I can trace my ancestry through agriculture is not unique, but it is something that has taken on greater meaning now that I recently moved to the top producing agricultural region in the world: California’s Central Valley.  

I recently attended the world’s largest agricultural exposition where over 2,000 vendors from around the United States and the world gather each February to showcase the latest in farming technology. Ever wanted to test drive a John Deere tractor that moves a blinding 20 miles per hour? Well, come to Tulare next February, join the farmers, test out the wares, and make your dream come true!

Prior to hearing the cannon go off which signaled the beginning of this Ag Expo, I attended the opening ceremonies where awards were given to the top ten new agricultural innovations. They awarded scholarships to high school students who are pursuing agricultural based education.  We all joined an inspiring 94 year old in singing the national anthem. I then spent several hours getting my 10,000+ steps as I passed by monstrous two story tall harvesters and checked out the latest in water saving crop spraying technology. I was blown away at the enthusiasm, the crowds (over 100,000 attendees), and the scrumptious food. Did I mention the food?!

We ended our morning of wandering by participating in what this is all about: food. The smells, the taste, but most importantly, the people. We purchased food from an agricultural based high school in the area that makes a six figure profit over this three day event. We sat down to rest and to savor the amazing flavor of perfectly cooked prime rib sandwiches topped with grilled onions, mushrooms, and, of course, barbecue sauce. We struck up a conversation with a couple from out of town who make this an annual trek and treat.

This entire event brought the world together with one common goal: food. I saw booths from Singapore, India, Italy, and Korea.  Why the fuss over food?  

Back in the day, obtaining food was a daily struggle. However, for most of the developed world, the worry of having sufficient food is no longer a problem.  Food brings freedom. The freedom to create a diverse economy by obtaining a job other than a farmer. The freedom to go on vacation with my family, knowing that supermarkets and restaurants can feed us wherever we go. Food brings family and friends together for holidays and backyard barbecues. Food engenders conversation (unless you’re a calorie consuming teenager). Food brings three-year-olds back to earth after their tantrums. There is nothing more heartwarming than to bring dinner to an ailing friend.  A full stomach makes us happy. Food gives us the freedom to help others, to make the world a better place, and to create community.  

Now that the world is grappling with COVID-19, governments at all levels have placed strict quarantine rules, but guess what?  Obtaining food remains a permissible reason to leave our homes; as liberating as that might sound, what we find at our local supermarket is quite scary.  The availability of some food staples such as rice, yeast, canned soup, and certain fruits and vegetables is no longer a given. The press has written innumerable articles about the food chain and tweets are applauding the pickers, the packers, the truckers, and the stockers who work to keep the food flowing from farm to market. American society is no longer taking for granted the availability of food—when I say a brief prayer before I eat and express gratitude for the food, I am saying it with more fervor and thought than ever before. Maybe something good came from COVID-19.

The next time you visit a supermarket or see a food truck pass you on the road, express gratitude for this amazing world we live in. Be grateful for our thriving agricultural and transportation system, for bringing us scrumptious freedom to not just physically nourish ourselves, but also to share life with others.

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