Food Shouldn't Be Cheap, Writer Argues

  • Life on the farm. Hewitt's kids draped over a cow. Photo: Courtesy Ben Hewitt

Twenty-something farm hippies as well as the old guard of this type will gather with Amish folk, foodies and others for the 22nd year in a row as the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture 2013 annual conference gets underway.  This alternative farm show kicks off Weds., Feb. 6 in State College. 

Ben Hewitt kind of falls into the youngish farm category.  He runs a family plot in Vermont and writes about sustainable ag. 

Though Hewitt is a farmer, he understands what a hard sell it can be to convince people to buy local and organic.

Ben Hewitt spoke with The Allegheny Front's Jennifer Szweda Jordan. Here is one exchange from their chat:

"When you have any situation where you have a parent working two jobs, you know just to keep any food on the table, how do you tell that person, ‘Wow, it would be so much better for you or for your community if you were buying this local, sustainable, organic..."

"Artisanal cheese?" Jordan wondered aloud, trying to complete the thought.

Hewitt continued: ”For twenty bucks a pound? You know that’s really tough to swallow....Unfortunately, because we all are dependent on these other commoditized systems, it’s very difficult for a lot of people in this country to make those choices."

However, he adds, ould argue that people can’t afford NOT to afford [buying local food]…

"That’s one of the reasons I’m compelled to look beyond the food system at the underlying factors that make that person unable to support a regionalized food system that make a lot of sense in so many ways because it’s going to support a healthier environment," he says. "It’s going to support a more vibrant community; it’s going to support his or her own health and the health of their children."

Hewitt plans to bring a dual message to the audience at the PASA conference. 

"The bad news is that we’re never going to transform the food system unless we transform all these other systems, that’s the bad news.  The good news is actually exactly the same, which is that we’re never going to transform our food system unless we transform all these other systems.  The reason I say this is good news is because many of these other systems are equally unhealthy, equally vulnerable, and in a way equally predatory."