A recent article in the New York Times describes a new way that farmers are using technology to connect to their consumers. A website called Find the Farmer–created by flour producers Stone Buhr (which uses a cooperative of growers) and The Food Alliance–allows consumers to trace an individual bags of flour back to its growers in a very tidy UPS-tracking sort of way. The article claims that this website not only provides a digital paper trail of traceability, but allows consumers to “reconnect with their lost agrarian past, from the comfort of their computer screens”.
While I agree with the idea that large food growers and processors are likely to be more more accountable if they are being traced, and I think that tools that help people eat local are important, I think that the best way to connect to your farmer is by building a relationship over the farmer’s market table, through CSAs, and by physically visiting the farm. It’s interesting because I think that the internet, especially this season, is helping us to connect with our members by showing them images of what’s happening around the farm, and by opening up the discussion on matters of farm or food.
I just think there is a huge difference between buying a bag of flour from Wal-Mart, typing in a code and seeing a picture of your growers and tasting cherry tomatoes off the vine and having the opportunity to ask your growers questions eye-to-eye. This just seems to me like more grocery aisle literature that consoles consumers with a lack of imagination. It’s kind of like Wendell Berry wrote:
We are involved now in a profound failure of imagination. Most of us cannot imagine the wheat beyond the bread, or the farmer beyond the wheat, or the farm beyond the farmer, or the history beyond the farm.”
What do you think?